Clearwater, Florida--Crowds gather around a small kiosk near the west end of Countryside Mall. Kids and their parents are in awe over a tiny creature on display that leaps and can even glide from one person to another.
The animal, called the sugar glider, is a tiny marsupial from the rain forests of Australia and Indonesia.
Photo Gallery: Sugar Gliders
Florida-based Pocket Pets travels from mall to mall selling the creatures on weekends. The price for one is almost $600. A second can be purchased for half price.
But animal activists familiar with the care of sugar gliders say the company may be misleading consumers on the care required to keep these exotic pets alive and healthy.
"They're high maintenance animals," said St. Petersburg sugar glider breeder "Erin", who asked 10 News not to publish her last name. "They're very easily stressed and when they're stressed out, they harm themselves."
Veterinarians report they've received at least four dead or dying sugar gliders in the past several weeks. The animals were malnourished, underweight, or suffering from neurological disorders. All were purchased at mall kiosks, according to Florida Veterinary Services.
Sugar gliders need proper nutrition, plenty of attention, and a cage large enough to allow them to move around and jump.
"They take them home and they get frustrated," Erin says of unsuspecting buyers who listen to the sales spiel at mall kiosks.
Erin disagrees with advertisements saying the animals are good with young children, get along with other pets, and make great travel companions.
Pocket Pets would not answer questions about their business and advertisements, but does have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Experts say the sugar glider can make a great, loving pet, but requires plenty of proper care.
Join a discussion about families with exotic pets on MomsLikeMe.com.
Beau Zimmer, 10 News