Does 'vampire' squirrel have world's fluffiest tail?

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside again, comes this news from the rainforests of Borneo: The legendary 'vampire' squirrel evidently has the biggest, fluffiest tail of any mammal in the world.

  More tail than squirrel...

More tail than squirrel...

According to local folk tales, the animal -- which actually goes by the prosaic name of 'tufted ground squirrel' -- has a fondness for fresh blood.  The 35-centimeter-long squirrel will reputedly spring onto the back of a live deer in order to gash its neck and drink its blood.

While many biologists have doubts about the squirrel's blood-swilling habits, no one can doubt the spectacular dimensions of its tail.  According to a recent essay in Science, the squirrel has the biggest, fluffiest tail (relative to its body size) of any mammal species alive.

  The tail doubles as an umbrella...

The tail doubles as an umbrella...

Rather charmingly, the dimensions of the squirrel's tail were worked out by a 15 year-old, Emily Mae Meijaard -- the daughter of the well known conservation scientist Erik Meijaard.

But sadly, the vampire squirrel's rainforest home is under siege.  Indonesia is now the world's fastest forest-destroying nation, and the rate of forest loss is evidently accelerating. 

Even worse, the squirrel is only known to live in undisturbed, old-growth rainforest -- which is rapidly vanishing in Borneo.

Perhaps the vampire squirrel needs to develop a taste for loggers and bulldozer drivers...