Giant Purple Squirrels Are Taking Over The Internet (and We Found Them in Real Life)

PHOTO: Samarth V Dangre Wikimedia Commons

Giant purple squirrels have taken over the internet. Here’s how to see them.

What’s purple and orange and all over the internet? These adorable squirrels. They have been making their way around the web (and our hearts) since they surprised an amateur wildlife photographer on Instagram and reminded us that the world is a delightful, magical place. How are they so adorable? Where can you see them? We’ve got you covered. 

 

What Are They?!

They are called Malabar Giant Squirrels, and they’re pretty big. From nose to tail, they can get up to three feet long and they weigh around four pounds. And yes, they really are purple (you can also find them in a variety of color combinations that can include black, brown, purple, orange, and maroon colors).

However, just how purple they are is up for debate in the zoology community. “This is exactly how they look. Brilliant!” wildlife conservation biologist and co-author of Squirrels of the World John Koprowski told National Geographic when they showed him the viral photo. It’s “as close to purple as one gets in a mammal.”

But, added evolutionary biologist Dana Kremples, she’s not sure that they’re not necessarily that purple in real life. “There’s a setting called ‘vibrance’ that enhances color intensity. That’s what it looks like to me.” However, we’ll just add that professor Kremples hasn’t written the literal book on squirrels (like Koprowski who agrees with the rest of the internet that they’re purple enough) for us.

 

 

I Need to See These Giant Purple Squirrels. How Do I Do That?

Head to Kerala, India. Specifically, the forests in the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala. That’s where amateur wildlife photographer Kaushik Vijayan photographed the furry beauty that made the internet go insane.

Pathanamthitta is a hilly, beautiful province of Southern India that’s just as full of mystery and magic as the squirrels who live in its forests. Locally, it’s a center of pilgrimage, but people from all over the world go here to visit the region’s beautiful temples, see their unique handicrafts, hang out it’s many festivals, or just bask in the wild beauty of the area. It’s crossed by three rivers, many temples, and coconut groves. More than half of the region is covered by forests which is where you’ll find the Malabar Giant Squirrel.

Planning a trip to the forests of Pathanamthitta is easy and about an hours’ drive from Thiruvananthapuram Airport, an international hub in  Kerala. For a guided tour of the forest, outfitters like Gavi Eco Tourism can arrange transport to and from the region and into the forest (where you can also spot barking deer, lion-tailed macaques, tigers and gaur).

However, spotting Malabar Giant Squirrels isn’t always easy. “They are pretty shy,” Pizza Ka Yee Chow, squirrel expert and research fellow at Hokkaido University, told The Dodo. “One of my friends who lives in India shared with me that the best way to see these giant squirrels is to climb up on a tree, stay very quiet and wait for them to emerge from their [nest].”

You can, however, simply spot them from your couch. We’ve collected some of our favorite photos of the Malabar Giant Squirrel.

Malabar Giant Squirrel, Wikimedia Commons, N.A. Nazeer
Malabar Giant Squirrel, Wikimedia Commons, N.A. NazeerWikimedia Commons/N.A. Nazeer
Malabar Giant Squirrel Rison Thumboor Wikimedia Commons
Malabar Giant Squirrel Rison Thumboor Wikimedia CommonsRison Thumboor/Wikimedia Commons
MGS, Shutterstock, By Anuradha Marwah
MGS, Shutterstock, By Anuradha MarwahShutterstock/Anuradha Marwah

 

MGS, Shutterstock, By VIVEK HARISH RAUT
Shutterstock/VIVEK HARISH RAUT
MGS, Shutterstock, By Seshadri Ramanathan
Shutterstock/Seshadri Ramanathan