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Monday Mustelid - Marten gwatkinsii Edition

You know what people need after Thanksgiving? Mustelids.

The Nilgiri Marten (Marten gwatkinsii) is the only species of marten that can be found in southern India, specifically in tropical forests of the Nilgiri and Western Ghats mountains. They typically live at elevations between 900 and 4,000 feet (300 and 1,200 meters), and the Tamil name for them is Neer Naai. The Nilgiri Marten is semi-arboreal, meaning that it spends much of its time in trees but also regularly descends to the forest floor.


Adult Nilgiri Martens can grow up to 25 inches (65 cm) in body length, with an additional 17 inches (45 cm) of tail. They weigh approximately 4.5 pounds (2.1 kg), with males being slightly larger than females. They have semi-retractable claws on their feet to help them with their semi-arboreal lifestyle - the claws make them agile climbers. Their proportionally-long tail allows them to balance themselves as they climb. Their coats are primarily dark brown, but they have a striking yellow-orange marking on their chests, with pale patches on their chins.

The diet of Nilgiri Martens consists mainly of fruit and insects, but they will also kill and eat small mammals and birds. They are known to consume honey, cicadas, rodents, and even mouse deer. Nilgiri Martens are active both during the day and at night, and are generally solitary creatures. They are territorial and use their anal scent glands to mark their territories, but may also be a little more tolerant of other martens, even outside of the breeding season.


Little is known about the specific breeding habits of the Nilgiri Marten. Their close relatives, the Yellow-throated Martens, are monogamous, but other marten species are polygynous. In either case, their breeding season likely takes place during the spring, and may delay implantation of fertilized eggs to time the births of the litters for more favorable times of the year. Female Nilgiri Martens likely give birth to litters of one to six kits.


Nilgiri Martens are considered to be a vulnerable species by the IUCN, because of its small distribution and the fact that its preferred habitat is under threat of human development. They are not typically hunted for food or fur by humans, and they have few natural predators, so habitat destruction is the biggest threat faced by the Nilgiri Marten.

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