When cuscuses were first discovered, people mistook them for monkeys, because of their prosimian-like moves and the way they gripped the branches with their partially hairless, prehensile tail. Of the 23 odd cuscus species in the world, one in particular is quite popular―the common spotted cuscus, which is often seen traveling slowly through the rainforest canopy. It is also known as the spotted cuscus and spotted phalanger. It boasts of being the largest marsupial native to the northern forests of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The spotted cuscus measures anywhere around 18 inches (45 cm) in length. It is covered with thick woolly fur that is variable in color. The female has a creamy coat, while the male has creamy gray to orange rust coat with irregular spots. Their skin is yellowish pink in color. They have really small ears and a rim around the large eyes that is thought to be useful for a nocturnal life. They have strong claws that help them climb.
It is an arboreal mammal, which virtually spends its entire life on trees. It rests in trees during the day, hidden under dense foliage. As they are nocturnal, they will move through the trees at night foraging for food. Cuscuses usually live a solitary life; the mothers though, are often seen with their unweaned babies. They spend most of their lives alone, coming together only during the mating season. They are really calm and docile―a characteristic trait that makes everyone want to keep them as house pets.
Though the common spotted cuscus is an omnivore, its diet primarily consists of fruits, flowers, and leaves. Occasionally, however, it will also snack on small birds and reptiles.
The species can breed throughout the year. They do not have a specific breeding season. They do not mate for life and can have many partners. After a female is impregnated, the gestation period is only for about 2 weeks or so. The mother may give birth to 2 - 3 young ones. The newborns climb into the mother's pouch. This pouch is a characteristic trait of marsupials. The babies stay inside it till they grow a bit bigger in size and become less vulnerable to the outside world. In most cases, only 1 of the 2 - 3 babies survive and emerge out of the pouch after 6 - 7 months.
There are no specific predators of the animal. It is mainly the large snakes or birds of prey that hunt the young. The spotted cuscus, like other cuscuses, only has one deadly predator, human. The docile animal is hunted by humans for their thick fur and meat.
The cuscus population is dwindling due to widespread deforestation and hunting by man. The destruction of their natural habitat has brought these beautiful, peaceful animals to the brink of extinction. If you want to do something for this species, stop buying fur and fur products, and avoid eating their meat.
The spotted cuscus is an elusive and secretive animal that is hard to spot in the wild. When you do spot one though, you will realize that it is one of the most exuberant experiences.