Sugar Glider Dubbed Cutest, Scariest Animal on Earth

Posted on October 28, 2010

Sugar Glider

Dr. Peter Daszak, a leading disease ecologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance, says the sugar glider is "the cutest, scariest animal on the planet." The sugar glider is a small gliding marsupial with huge round eyes and a long tail.

Daszak says, "I'm most afraid of this particular little animal, because the people are going into the forests of Indonesia to catch them, bring them into captivity, and ship them around the world straight into our homes, where we hold them, kiss them, and cuddle up to them. What easier way could there be for any one of this species' 100 new viruses to spread to humans?"

Daszak's comments were part of a speech he gave at the TEDMED 2010 Conference in San Diego. Daszak says approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans today is of zoonotic origin (a disease that jumps from wild or domestic animals and spreads to humans). The deadly SARS outbreak is thought to have spread to humans from civet cats.

"Around the world a rising number of diseases like SARS, monkeypox, and HIV are spread due to trade in wildlife, and these diseases have serious public health, economic, and conservation consequences," Dr. Daszak said. "Using EcoHealth Alliance's unparalleled experience in the field, the organization is working to identify, predict and mitigate disease outbreaks."

Photo: EcoHealth Alliance