It has been recorded across a wide range of elevations from 300 to 2,600 m asl (within 100 m of thesummit ofthe highest peak within itsrange; Mudappa 1999, Balakrishnan 2005, Krishna and Karnad 2010, D. Muddapa pers. comm. 2014). Although there has been no formal assessment that accounts for variable search effort across the altitudinal gradient, it appears that thespeciesoccurs mostly inmedium to high elevations of about 800-2,600 m asl (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014).
Nilgiri martens (Martes gwatkinsii) are endemic to the western Ghats mountain range of southern India, which is found within the oriental geographic range.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
- 2012. "Nilgiri Marten" (On-line). The Animal Files.com. Accessed August 17, 2012 at http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/carnivores/marten_nilgiri.html.
- Balakrishnan, P. 2005. Recent sightings and habitat characteristics of the endemic Nilgiri Marten. Small Carnivore Conservation, 33: 14-16.
- Gokula, V., N. Ramachandran. 1996. A Record of the Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi Horsfield in Upper Bhavani. The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 93: 82.
- Hussain, S. 2012. "Nilgiri marten Martes gwatkinsii Horsfield, 1851" (On-line). Mustelids, Viverrids and Herpestids of India: Species Profile and Conservation Status. Accessed August 17, 2012 at http://oldwww.wii.gov.in/envis/envisdec99/nilgirimartin.htm.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2012. "Martes gwatkinsii" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed August 17, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12847/0.
- John, J. 2002. Hunting Attempt by Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi Horsfield, family Mustelidae, in Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala. The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 99/2: 286.
- Krishna, C., D. Karnad. 2010. New records of the Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsii in Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 43: 1-5.
- Kumara, H. 2006. Impact of local hunting on abundance of large mammals in three protected areas of the Western Ghats, Karnataka. Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, 1: 2-6.
- Kumara, H., M. Singh. 2007. Small Carnivores of Karnataka: Distribution and Sight Records. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 104: 155-162.
- Radhakrishnan, S. 2000. The Wildlife of Kerala. Panchali, 16: 1-4. Accessed August 15, 2012 at http://www.vetcos.com/panchali/pdfs/Article_16_wildlife.pdf.
Nilgiri martens average around 2.1 kg. Their body lengths are anywhere from 55 to 65 cm, with their tail length being anywhere from 40 to 45 cm. As a marten, they have a high basal metabolic rate. Their coat color is brown with a very distinct yellow or orange throat patch. Nilgiri martens are similiar in size and appearance to yellow-throated martens. Nilgiri martens are distinguished by their slightly larger size and by the structure of their skulls. Nilgiri marten braincases are flattened above with a prominent frontal concavity.
Average mass: 2.1 kg.
Range length: 55 to 65 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
- Wund, M. 2005. "Mustelidae" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 24, 2012 at http://www.arlis.org/docs/vol1/52386062/mustelidae.html.
Habitat and Ecology
This species will prey opportunistically on almost any small bird or mammal (Pocock 1941), including Indian Chevrotain Moschiola indica(Christopher and Jayson 1996, Kurup and Joseph 2001, Mudappa 2002), Indian Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica (Hutton 1949a, V. Ramachandran, pers. comm. 2014),and on Bengal Monitor lizardVaranus bengalensis(Mudappa 1999); it feeds alsoon nectar (Hutton 1944) and probes fallen logs (Kurup and Joseph 2001), probably for invertebrates or reptiles. While sightings in forest areas are rare, local forest-edge communities (local planters along the eastern border of Talacauvery and Padinalknad ReservedForestto the south, the southern border of Pattighat RF and the southern/eastern border of Pushpagiri) usually know this distinctive species well and regularly sight Nilgiri Martens when they raid bee-boxes placed in coffee and cardamom plantations close to forest areas (reportedly to feed on the bee larvae, rather than honey), especially during November-January.
Nilgiri martens occur predominantly in the moist tropical rainforests of southern India at an altitudinal range of 300 to 1200 m. There have been reports of sightings in coffee, cardamom, wattle plantations, swamps, grasslands, deciduous forests, and montane-evergreen forests.
Range elevation: 300 to 1200 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Martens are omnivorous. Nilgiri martens are partly frugivorous and insectivorous. They are believed to be good hunters and frequently kill and eat small mammals and birds. There have even been reports of Nilgiri martens hunting chevrotains, monitor lizards, crows, Indian giant squirrels, and cicadas. They have also been known to consume nectar in the form of honey.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; insects
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Insectivore ); herbivore (Frugivore ); omnivore
Mustelids mainly impact their environments through their effects on prey populations. "Given their strong associations with structural complexity in forests, marten and the fisher are often considered as useful barometers of forest health and have been used as ecological indicators, flagship, and umbrella species in different parts of the world, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia. Thus, efforts to successfully conserve and manage martens and fishers are associated with the ecological fates of other forest dependent species and can greatly influence ecosystem integrity within forests that are increasingly shared among wildlife and humans (Harrison, Fuller and Proulx, 2005)."
Nilgiri martens have no known natural predators. However, as a small carnivore it could be vulnerable to predation by any larger predators in the area. Large predators in the Western Ghats region of southern India include leopards, sloth bears, dholes, and tigers.
- Ramesh, T., S. Natarajan, S. Kalyansundaram, Q. Qureshi, K. Selvan, G. Neduncheran, F. Pichaiyan, N. Kannadasan, Y. Jhala, R. Gopal. 2012. Status of Large Carnivores and Their Prey in Tropical Rainforests of South-western Ghats, India. Tropical Ecology, 53/2: 137-148. Accessed August 24, 2012 at http://wii.academia.edu/kannadasannarasimmarajan/Papers/1568235/Status_of_large_carnivores_and_their_prey_in_tropical_rainforests_of_South-western_Ghats_India.
Life History and Behavior
Given Nilgiri martens presumably social nature, they likely communicate both vocally and chemically, through scent marking, similiarly to other martens. They likely use sight, scent, touch, and sound to perceive their environment, although little is currently known about their communication.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of Nilgiri martens is currently unknown. However, a close relative, yellow-throated martens, has been known to live on average 14 years in captivity. Other martens have been known to live on average 10 to 18.1 years in captivity.
Status: captivity: 14 years.
- Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. 2002. "Mammals" (On-line). Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish. Accessed August 18, 2012 at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/longevityrecords/0203.htm.
The reproductive habits of the Nilgiri martens have not been studied. Many mustelids are polygynous, however, yellow-throated martens are known to be monogamous. As Nilgiri martens closest relatives they are presumed to share many biological and behavioral traits; therefore it is likely that Nilgiri martens are also monogamous.
Nilgiri martens reproductive habits have not been exclusively studied. However, we can presume similar reproductive behaviors to close relatives yellow-throated martens and other mustelids. Most mustelids breed seasonally. Yellow-throated martens breed between either February and March or between June and August; Nilgiri martens may follow a similar reproductive schedule. Other species of Martens undergo delayed implantation. Gestation typically lasts 30 to 65 days for mustelids. Gestation periods of yellow-throated martens last between 220 and 290 days. It is unknown whether Nilgiri martena have a similarly long gestation period as yellow-throated martens. Generally, mustelids are altricial, being born small and blind. Information on the growth and development of Nilgiri martens have not been documented. Yellow-throated martens have been recorded to have 2 to 6 kits per litter.
Breeding interval: Most mustelids breed seasonally.
Breeding season: Most mustelid breeding seasons lasts between 3 to 4 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous ; delayed implantation
No information is available regarding the parental investment of Nilgiri martens. Other mustelids are altricial, are weaned at 6 to 8 weeks and receive parental care until about 3 to 4 months.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
- 2011. "The Yellow-throated Marten - It is Just Their Natural Color" (On-line). Accessed August 17, 2012 at http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Carnivora/Mustelidae/Martes/Martes-flavigula.html.
- Shak, M. 2012. "Martes flavigula" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 17, 2012 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Martes_flavigula.html.
- Wund, M. 2005. "Mustelidae" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 24, 2012 at http://www.arlis.org/docs/vol1/52386062/mustelidae.html.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
It might be close towarranting categorisation asVulnerable alsounder criterion C1. The global population estimate falls comfortably within the threshold under C for Endangered (fewer than 2,500 mature individuals), but it is not plausible that it isshowing a20% decline in 14 years (two generations).Given the levelsof persecution in parts of its rangeit is possible that it isin continuing decline, but it is unlikely that it islosing even 10% per 21 years, the level which would be needed for categorisation asVulnerable. Should there be a change in land-use policy that would cause significant clearance of forest within its range, this conclusion would need to be reviewed.
- Vulnerable (VU)
- 2000Vulnerable (VU)
- 1996Vulnerable (VU)
- 1994Vulnerable (V)
- 1990Indeterminate (I)
- 1988Indeterminate (I)
Nilgiri martens are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is listed under Appendix III under the CITES appendices. "This species is listed as Vulnerable because its entire extent of occurrence is less than 20,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its forest habitat in the six discontinuous national parks where is occurs. In addition, remaining populations are severely fragmented due to a continuing decline in the extent and quality of habitat (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 2012)".
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
State of Michigan List: no special status
The population trend is unknown, but given the lack, in recent decades, of strong broad-scale threats such as heavy hunting or habitat loss, it is likely to be relatively stable at present. Hunting was largely an attempt to reduce the loss of bees' boxes (and consequent honey production); a few decadesago, there were even bounties paid for destruction of thespecies, particularly in Kodagu district(D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014). This is no longer the case and persecution levels may have dropped, as certainly have levels of general recreational hunting. In Kodagu, retaliatory killing remains at a high level across the range,andseems unlikely to drop;somebee-keepers report a marked decline in Marten sightings in the 20 years to 2014, although it is not clear that this reflects asignificantdecline in population in this part of its range (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014).Thus,while it is plausible that the population in Kodagu is still in hunting-led decline, even this is not certain (D. Jathanna pers. comm. 2014, D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014), and over the rest of the range it is evidently rebuilding its numbersfollowing the drop in hunting levels. The balance between the two opposing trendsis not clear, but is unlikely to bestrongly downwards, and may even be upwards.
This species occurs in many protected areasand Reserved Forests (RFs), including (south to north): Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (TR), Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), Neyyar WLS, Gavi range of Ranni Forest Division (FD), Periyar TR, Srivilliputtur WLS, High Wavy Mountains, Pambadumshola National Park (NP), Palni hills, Eravikulam NP, Anamalai TR - Grass Hills NP, Valparai plateau, Chinnar WLS, Nelliampathy RF, Attapadi RF, Muthikkulam RF, Nilambur South RF, Silent Valley NP, Mukurthi NP - Upper Bhavani, Naduvattam RF-Nilgiris, Brahmagiri WLS, Kerti RF, Padinalknad RF, Talakaveri WLS, Pattighat RF, Pushpagiri WLS, Bisle RF and Charmadi-Kanapadi RF (Hutton 1949a,b; Karanth 1985; Schreiber et al. 1989; Madhusudan 1995; Yoganand and Kumar 1995; Christopher and Jayson 1996; Gokula and Ramachandran 1996; Kurup and Joseph 2001; Mudappa 2001, 2002; Balakrishnan 2005; Kumara and Singh 2007; Mudappa et al. 2007; Krishna and Karnad 2010; Anoop 2013; D. Jathannapers. comm. 2014; H. N. Kumara pers. comm. 2014; N. Jain pers. comm. 2014; M. Balasubramaniam pers. comm. 2014; R. Vijayan pers. comm. 2014; K. J. Varkey pers. comm. 2014; V. Ramachandran pers. comm. 2014; R. Nayak pers. comm. 2014; S. Chirukandoth pers. comm. 2014; G. Mehra pers. comm. 2014; N. A. Naseer pers. comm. 2014; D. Jathanna pers.comm. 2014). There are also records from Sholayar (Vijayan 1979), Parambikulam TR (Sreehari and Nameer 2013) and Vazhachal RF (D. Mudappapers. comm. 2014). These protected areasand reserved forests adequately cover the distributional range of the species andconserveit effectively.
Schreiber et al. (1989) recommended field surveys to locate remaining populations and determine if existing reserves give adequate protection. A systematic survey following thisrecommendation found that although poaching isinfrequent in protected areas, measures to regulate hunting outside these areas are ineffective, especially in lowland forests (Balakrishnan 2005). With the recent number of incidental records clarifying current range, the more important need now is forecological study of the species, particularly to clarify the factors behind the generally lowsighting rate. This would greatly help in planning conservation action for the species, if indeed any is needed.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Nilgiri martens have been reported raiding local bee hives and therefore has been considered a pests by local bee farmers. However, the scarcity of Nilgiri martens leads researchers to believe that the impact on the local honey industry is minimal.
Nilgiri martens have been reported to be hunted for human consumption. However, due to the rarity of the species, it is unlikely that Nilgiri martens are an important food source. It is also unlikely that the fur of Nilgiri martens is valuable, as the fur of its closest relatives, yellow-throated martens, is considered to be of little value.
The Nilgiri marten is similar to the yellow-throated marten, but is larger and essentially different in the structure of the skull – it has a prominent frontal concavity. It is unmistakable in the field as it is dark above with a bright throat ranging in colour from yellow to orange. which is the deep brown from head to rump, the forequarters being almost reddish.
It is about 55 to 65 cm long from head to vent and has a tail of 40 to 45 cm. It weighs about 2.1 kg.
Ecology and behaviour
Very little is known about the Nilgiri marten. It is diurnal, and though arboreal, descends to the ground occasionally. It is reported to prey on birds, small mammals and insects such as cicadas.
- Choudhury, A., Wozencraft, C., Muddapa, D. & Yonzon, P. (2008). Martes gwatkinsii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable
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- Madhusudan, M.D. (1995) Sighting of the Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii) at Eravikulam National Park, Kerala, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 13, 6–7.
- Gokula, V. & Ramachandran, N.K. (1996) A record of the Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii Horsfield). J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 93, 82.
- Mudappa, D. 1999 Lesser known carnivores of the Western Ghats IN ENVIS Bulletin : Wildlife, Protected areas: Mustelids, Viverrids and Herpestides of India 2(2): 65–70 Publisher: Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, Editor: S. A. Hussain.
- Balakrishnan, P. (2005) Recent sightings and habitat characteristics of the endemic Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsii in Western Ghats, India.
- Krishna, K. & Karnad, D. (2010) New records of the Nilgiri marten Martes gwatkinsii in the Western Ghats, India. Small Carnivore Conservation, 43, 23–27.
- Hutton, A.F. (1944) Feeding habits of the Nilgiri marten. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 48, 374–375
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- The book of Indian Animals S.H.Prater, Bombay Natural History Society, Oxford University Press, 2005
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