TÄNAVALT (From the street)
"Vote for (or choose) the flying squirrel." Not to be confused with that other squirrel, the symbol of Estonia's Reformierakond (Reform Party). Although this poster was up last month during street campaiging for the upcoming Riigikogu (parliamentary) elections on March 6, the flying squirrel is not entering politics, but it does want your attention. The LENDORAV (not lendav orav, as some mistakenly assume) is the symbol of the Estonian Fund for Nature and one of the most elusive and endangered species in Estonia.
The poster's fine print continues: "With the loss of many old-growth forests, the flying squirrel population in Estonia has decreased alarmingly. Donate in support of the flying squirrel and help preserve the habitat of this unique animal. For more information visit the homepage of the Estonian Fund for Nature (www.elfond.ee)." The dilemma lies in the fact that hollow apsen (haab, pl. haavad) provide a perfect nesting place for the reclusive flying squirrel, while their wood is also desireable for harvesting.
Lendoravad do not fly, but rather have the ability to glide (liuglevad) from tree to tree with recorded glides of up to 90 metres. The direction and speed of "flight" is controlled by their small wrist bones which change the tautness of the parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. Their fluffy tail stabilises flight and acts as an air brake before landing on a tree trunk. North Americans who have seen flying squirrels up close (including at bird feeders at Kotkajärve), should consider themselves very lucky indeed, since very few Estonians have had such an opportunity.