Small Sulawesi cuscus (Strigocuscus celebensis)

Small Sulawesi cuscus feeding on leaf
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Small Sulawesi cuscus fact file

Small Sulawesi cuscus description

GenusStrigocuscus (1)

The small Sulawesi cuscus is a diminutive, possum-like marsupial, with soft, pale buff fur (2) (3). In common with the 22 other species of cuscus and possum that comprise the family Phalangeridae, the small Sulawesi cuscus has a short face, with protruding eyes and a naked nose (2) (4). The feet have five digits, all of which are strongly clawed, except for the big toes of the hind feet. The un-clawed big toes are opposable to the remaining toes of the hind feet, as are the first two toes of the forefeet to the other three (2) (3). This enables the cuscus to firmly grip branches, which, in addition to having a long prehensile tail, makes the small Sulawesi cuscus an excellent tree climber (3) (4). The female cuscus has a well developed pouch that opens to the front and conceals two to four nipples (2).

Also known as
Little Celebes cuscus, small cuscus.
Phalanger celebensis.
Petit Couscous De Célèbes.
Head-body length: 294-380 mm (2)
Tail length: 270-373 mm (2)
1 kg (3)

Small Sulawesi cuscus biology

The small Sulawesi cuscus lives in the hollows of trees, from where it can get easy access to forage in the forest canopy (3). It feeds primarily on fruit and is most active during the night (2) (3) (5). Unlike most species within the Phalangeridae, which are thought to be promiscuous, the small Sulawesi cuscus forms monogamous pairs (2) (3). However, all members of the family are thought to share similar reproductive traits, with the adult female producing one to two litters per year. Out of three to four, small, un-furred young that are born following a gestation period of just 20 days, only one will usually be reared. This infant will only exit the pouch after being weaned at around five to eight months (3).


Small Sulawesi cuscus range

Endemic to Indonesia, this cuscus occurs only on Sulawesi and the nearby islands of Sangihe, Siau and Muna (1) (2).


Small Sulawesi cuscus habitat

An arboreal animal, the small Sulawesi cuscus typically inhabits primary, and sometimes secondary, tropical lowland forest (1).


Small Sulawesi cuscus status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Small Sulawesi cuscus threats

Hunting of the small Sulawesi cuscus for food, and deforestation due to agriculture and logging, are the most significant threats to this species. Given the rate at which habitat is being lost and the probable extent to which this species is over-exploited, it is likely that its population is declining significantly (1).


Small Sulawesi cuscus conservation

In the absence of recent surveys, it is unclear how rapidly the small Sulawesi cuscus population is declining or indeed even what the size of the population is. Consequently, it is important that further surveys are carried out, so that a more detailed assessment can be made of its conservation status (1).

While this species is technically protected by Indonesian law (1), the funding and human resources required to enforce the law are limited, particularly so in Sulawesi (6). Nonetheless, a Wildlife Crimes Unit, established by the Indonesian Department of Forestry and the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2001 to monitor wildlife trade in North Sulawesi, has been effective in reducing trade in some protected mammals (6) (7). The next step is to expand the Wildlife Crimes Unit to cover all of Sulawesi and to work with local communities to strengthen conservation awareness (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on conservation in Sulawesi see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A diverse group of mammals characterised by their reproduction, in which gestation is very short, and the female typically has a pouch (marsupium) in which the young are raised. When born, the tiny young crawls to the mother’s teats, where it attaches and stays for a variable amount of time, whilst it continues to develop. Marsupials also differ from placental mammals in their dentition.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Capable of grasping.
Refers to forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Mating with more than one individual without forming any permanent bonds.
Refers to forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2008)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Kleiman, D.G., Geist, V. and McDade, M.C. (2003) Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Vol 13, Mammals II. Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
  4. Kerle, A. and Saunders, V. (2001) Possums: The Brushtails, Ringtails and Greater Glider. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
  5. Dwiyahreni, A.A., Kinnaird, M.F., O'Brien, T.G., Supriatna, J. and Andayani, N. (1999) Diet and activity of the bear cuscus, Ailurops ursinus, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Journal of Mammalogy, 80: 905 - 912.
  6. Lee, R.J., Gorog, A.J., Dwiyahreni, A., Siwu, S., Riley, J., Alexander, H., Paoli, G.D. and Ramono, W. (2005) Wildlife trade and implications for law enforcement in Indonesia: A case study from North Sulawesi. Biological Conservation, 123: 477 - 488.
  7. Wildlife Conservation Society (November, 2008)

Image credit

Small Sulawesi cuscus feeding on leaf  
Small Sulawesi cuscus feeding on leaf

© Gerald Cubitt

Gerald Cubitt
Tel: +27 (21) 685-1552


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