Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 10:10 UK

Sugar gliders proving popular pet

Sugar glider
The sugar glider lives in the home of her owner Sian Bailey

An exotic marsupial that can glide for 12ft (3.6m) has been proving to be a popular, if unlikely, pet.

The Sugar Glider is usually found in the warmer climes of Australia or New Guinea, but it is increasingly seen in UK homes of exotic pet owners.

Fetching up to 150 each, the 6in (15cm) long creature has a skin membrane, which allows it to glide.

But despite its increasing popularity, the animal charity RSPCA does not recommend them as pets.

Breeder Sian Bailey, of Southern Sugar Gliders, in Southampton, stumbled across the creatures on the internet and spent six months researching them before deciding to buy one.

"They're much better than I expected and much cuter," said the trainee veterinary nurse.

"They are very inquisitive and it's nice watching them glide around.

"Looking after them is much harder than say a hamster or anything like that.

"It's not easy to buy food for them from just any pet store.

"You have to give them live insects, locusts or mealworms, and I give them fresh fruit and vegetables."

Sian Bailey with Skye
Miss Bailey admits that sugar gliders can be hard to look after

Miss Bailey also feeds them leadbeaters - a mix of warm water, honey, boiled eggs, baby cereal and vitamin supplements.

Mostly nocturnal, sugar gliders need space, companions and can live for up to 15 years.

But a spokesman for the RSPCA said: "[We] would not recommend them as pets.

"The society believes that anyone who keeps animals must have the facilities, time, financial means and level of interest necessary to ensure a satisfactory standard of care for, and a long-term commitment to, their animals.

"These animals are used to hot, damp living conditions, can become ill or die if given an improper diet, don't like noise created by TVs or radios and can have their eyesight damaged by bright light."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific