Ferret-Badgers

Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the mustelid subfamily Helictidinae. They are named as such because of their similar physical characteristics to polecats and badgers but have no genetic relation to either, which highlights just how diverse Mustelidae as a family is on the whole.

Ferret-badgers may have short legs, broad paws, and long claws for digging like other badger species, but they are distinctively smaller, elongated, and have long, bushy tails. They also have ridges running across their paw pads, and the toes are partially webbed. These features are believed to be adaptations for climbing. Like all mustelids, ferret-badgers have five digits on each paw.

With some exceptions regarding the newly discovered Vietnamese ferret-badger, most Melogale species appear to have grey to brownish fur on their backs and sides, with lighter colored fur on the underside. White with black markings are characteristics of their facial mask; usually consisting of black fur from the nose to around the eyes, with a white ring bordering the black that extends down beyond the throat. A small black spot on each cheek is also typical. A white dorsal stripe runs from the top of the head down to the shoulders or back.(1)

References

  1. Jackson, S. 2015. Badger Pages: The ferret badgers (Melogale spp.) Badgers.org.uk. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 01 September 2020.

(1) Bornean Ferret-Badger (Melogale everetti)

The Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti), also known as Everett’s ferret-badger or the Kinabalu ferret-badger, is found on Mt. Kinabalu on the Northern tip of the island of Borneo.(1) The scientific name honours the naturalist and zoological collector Alfred Hart Everett.

Appearance

Little information is available regarding the appearance of the Bornean ferret-badger, but they are reported to share similar visual characteristics of other Melogale species, such as the dorsal white stripe; which runs from the top of the head and ends at the shoulders.(1)

Habitat

The Bornean ferret-badger dwells within wooded hillsides, sub-tropical and tropical forests.(1) Unlike the Javan ferret-badger, there appears to be no records from agricultural landscapes.(2)

Behaviour

M. everetti is primarily active at night, but can also be found about at dusk. Similar to other Melogale species, they do not dig their own burrows, but instead live in pre-existing burrows dug by other animals. They also climb on occasion.(1)(3)

Diet

Not much is known about the Bornean ferret-badger’s diet, but they’ve been noted to consume earthworms and small vertebrates.(4) Like other Melogale species, it is believed that also forage for amphibians, insects, fruit and carrion.(1)

Range map

Body length: 33–44 cm / 13–17 in (males)
Tail length: 15.2–23 cm / 6–9 in (males)
Weight: 1–2 kg / 2–4.5 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), unknown (captivity)
Range: The highland forests on Mount Kinabalu and nearby regions in Sabah, Malaysia.
Conservation status: Endangered
References

  1. Jackson, S. 2015. Badger Pages: The ferret badgers (Melogale spp.) Badgers.org.uk. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 01 September 2020.
  2. Wilting, A., Duckworth, J.W., Hearn, A. & Ross, J. 2015. Melogale everettiThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T13110A45199541. Downloaded on 01 September 2020.
  3. Nowak, Ronald M., and Ernest Pillsbury Walker. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Vol. 1. JHU press, 1999.
  4. Dinets, V. 2003. Records of small carnivores from Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo. Small Carnivore Conservation 28: 9.

(2) Burmese Ferret-Badger (Melogale personata)

Photo by Dmitry Ivanov

The Burmese ferret-badger, also known as the large-toothed ferret-badger, is native to Southeast Asia.

Appearance

The Burmese ferret-badger is similar to that of the Chinese ferret-badger, but with subtle differences. Typical coloring consists of dark grey or brownish fur on the back, with similar but lighter colored fur on the underside, with a white dorsal stripe running down the back. Unlike the Chinese ferret-badger however, the stripe runs all the way to the tip of the tail instead of stopping midway down the back.

Like the Chinese ferret-badger, the Burmese ferret-badger also has the characteristic facial mask consisting of dark fur on the nose and around the eyes, with light colored rings up toward the ears and a white patch midway behind the ears, but in the Burmese ferret-badger, the dark patches are much smaller and thinner, with the lighter fur predominating, resulting in the mask being much less well-defined.(1)

Habitat

The rarity of the Burmese ferret-badger makes it difficult to determine their habit, but a number of preliminary studies suggest they can be found in evergreen forests. It is also believed they may dwell in savannas or grasslands.(1)

Behaviour

They are primarily nocturnal, and spend of most of the day sleeping. They prefer to live in abandoned burrows instead of digging their own. Little is known about the social behaviour, range or territories of the Burmese ferret-badger, however, one study reported males having home ranges large enough to surround the ranges of several females, approximately 4–9 hectares (9.8–22 acres).(1)

Similar to other members of the genus Melogale, it is believed the Burmese ferret-badger is mostly solitary, except during mating season.(1)

Reproduction

The Burmese ferret-badger has been reported to have an average litter size of 3 cubs. They are usually born just before the rainy season, and are fed for two to three weeks by their mother. Very little is known beyond this reproductive cycle.(2)

Diet

They will consume invertebrates and insects such as cockroaches, grasshoppers and earthworms. The Burmese ferret-badger has the largest teeth of any other Melogale species, which is thought be an adaptation for crushing hard shelled insects and snails. They are also reported to eat young rats, frogs, toads, small lizards, carrion, small birds, bird eggs; including plant matter and fruit.(1)

Range map

Body length: 35–40 cm / 14–16 in (males)
Tail length: 15–21 cm / 6–8 in (males)
Weight: 1.5–3 kg / 3–7 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), up to 10 years (captivity)
Range: Southeast Asia.
Conservation status: Least Concern
References

  1. Jackson, S. 2015. Badger Pages: The ferret badgers (Melogale spp.) Badgers.org.uk. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  2. Pei, Kurtis, and Ying Wang. “Some observations on the reproduction of the Taiwan ferret-badger (Melogale moschata subaurantiaca) in southern Taiwan.” Zoological Studies 34.2 (1995): 88-95.

(3) Chinese Ferret-Badger (Melogale moschata)

Photo by Николай Усик

The Chinese ferret-badger, also known as the small-toothed ferret-badger, is the most common and widely distributed of the five species of Asian ferret-badgers, and enjoys a wide distribution throughout Northern India, central and northern China and Taiwan.(1)

Appearance

The Chinese ferret-badger has an appearance similar to the American badger, but is much smaller, with a much longer and narrower body and lacks the stockiness of its distant American cousin. They have a defined facial mask of light fur surrounded by black (although not nearly as prominent as the Eurasian badger or certain polecats species), along with a whitish diamond-shaped patch on the crown of the head, continuing as a white stripe down to the neck and in some cases down to the middle of the back. Dorsal fur colour is somewhat variable, with a short brown, faun brown or greyish brown fur covering the back, while the underside ranges from white to orange.(2)

The Chinese ferret-badger has the characteristic 5-toed mustelid paws, with strong, well-defined nails enabling them to dig easily and efficiently, as well as climb trees.(3)

Habitat

The Chinese ferret-badger is quite adaptable and can be found living in multiple environments such as grassland, open forests, and rain forests. They have little fear of humans and can often be found in proximity to human farming settlements as well as wild uninhabited areas. They rarely prey on chickens or livestock and typically don’t damage human property and in fact, in many cases they are encouraged to hang around by humans as they often feed on small rodents and cockroaches; controlling the populations of these and other pests. Less solitary than other mustelids, they often have small but frequently overlapping 4–9 hectare (9.8–22 acre) territories.(4)

Behaviour

They are exploratory and opportunistic hunters, and have the characteristic mustelid scent glands and can be quite fierce when forced to defend themselves. They are largely active at dusk and into the night hours. In the daytime, can often be found resting in man-made wood-piles or rock piles, as well as abandoned burrows, rock crevices, or in natural hollows or depressions.(2) Less solitary than other mustelids, they often have small but frequently overlapping 4–9 hectare (10–22 acre) territories.(4)

Diet

The Chinese ferret-badger is an omnivore and an opportunist, and will eat just about anything it comes across; including insects, worms, and small invertebrates, as well as fruits and vegetables.(5)(6)

Range map

Body length: 30–40 cm / 12–16 in (males)
Tail length: 15–23 cm / 5.9–9.1 in (males)
Weight: 1–3 kg / 2–6.5 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), up to 17 years (captivity)
Range: Southeast Asia.
Conservation status: Least Concern
Recognised subspecies(7)

  1. M. m. moschata
  2. M. m. ferreogrisea
  3. M. m. hainanensis
  4. M. m. millsi
  5. M. m. sorella
  6. M. m. subaurantiaca
  7. M. m. taxilla
References

  1. Jones, M. L., and JONES ML. “Longevity of captive mammals.” (1982)
  2. LEKAGUL B & MCNEELY, J. “Mammals of Thailand.” Association for the Conservation of Wildlife. Kuru sapha Ladprao Press, Bangkok (1988)
  3. Wang, Haibin, and Todd K. Fuller. “Ferret badgerMelogale moschata activity, movements, and den site use in southeastern China.” Acta Theriologica 48.1 (2003): 73-7
  4. Seefeldt, R. 2003. “Melogale moschata” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 26, 2020
  5. Chuang, Shun‐An, and Ling‐Ling Lee. “Food habits of three carnivore species (Viverricula indica, Herpestes urva, and Melogale moschata) in Fushan Forest, northern Taiwan.” Journal of Zoology 243.1 (1997): 71-79.
  6. Zhou, You-Bing, et al. “Frugivory and seed dispersal by a small carnivore, the Chinese ferret-badger, Melogale moschata, in a fragmented subtropical forest of central China.” Forest Ecology and Management 255.5-6 (2008): 1595-1603
  7. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Melogale moschata in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geo

(4) Javan Ferret-Badger (Melogale orientalis)

Photo by Julia Wittmann

The Javan ferret-badger is endemic to Java and Bali, Indonesia.

Appearance

Javan ferret-badgers have brown fur with reddish tints that may appear gray or tawny in certain light. Apart from the usual Melogale features, the species has white markings on their neck, throat, chest and abdomen, with a streak of dark brown fur that extends from behind their eyes to near their throat. A white stripe runs from the top of the head down to the shoulders. Larger dark markings on the face could possibly be another distinctive feature of M. everetti.(1)(2)

Habitat

The exact range of the Javan ferret-badger is unknown, but they tend to dwell in hilly and mountainous areas; perhaps even lower altitudes.(1) Although most records report them as living in forests, the species does not seem to be dependent on this habitat. There have been reports of them living in secondary forests and rubber plantations. Some records show they also can be found in thick undergrowth of montane forest habitats.(2)

Behaviour

Similar to other Melogale species, the Javan ferret-badger is primarily nocturnal and lives in pre-existing burrows. Though little is known about their behaviour, small groups of adults and juveniles have been reported to forage together.(3)

In Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park in West Java, there have been sightings of Javan ferret-badgers along the park’s trail network; scavenging for food overnight in camping and picnic spots.(4)

Diet

Similar to other ferret-badger species, the menu consists of small animals, birds, amphibians, eggs, carrion, invertebrates and fruit.(2)

Range map

Body length: 35–40 cm / 14–16 in (males)
Tail length: 14.5–17 cm / 6–7 in (males)
Weight: 1–2 kg / 2.2–4.4 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), unknown (captivity)
Range: The islands of Java and Bali in Indonesia.
Conservation status: Least Concern
References

  1. Jackson, S. 2015. Badger Pages: The ferret badgers (Melogale spp.) Badgers.org.uk. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  2. Denryter, K. 2013. “Melogale orientalis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 22 August 2020.
  3. Duckworth, J.W., Shepherd, C., Rode-Margono, E.J., Wilianto, E., Spaan, D. & Abramov, A.V. 2016. Melogale orientalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41697/45218557 Accessed 22 August 2020.
  4. Duckworth, J.; Roberton, S.; Brickle, N. (2008). “Further notes on Javan ferret badger Melogale orientalis at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Java” (PDF)Small Carnivore Conservation39: 39–40. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 August 2020.

(5) Vietnamese Ferret-Badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)

Photo by Elke Schwierz

The Vietnamese ferret-badger is the most recently discovered of the five species of Melogale. The Vietnamese ferret-badger was discovered in 2011 in the Cuc Phuong National Park in northern Vietnam,(1) and so far are only known to exist in this local area. Because the discovery is of recent date, almost no information exists regarding this particular species particularly in terms of diet and behaviour, although these are presumed to be similar to the Chinese ferret-badger, which inhabits the Indochina region and the three other known ferret-badger species which inhabit Java, Borneo and Bali.(2)

Appearance

Vietnamese ferret-badgers have a coat of dark brown with silver-tipped guard hairs beneath, resulting in a “frosted” look while their underside ranges from light-brown to cream, with their cheeks, neck, and throat being lighter in colour than the rest of the head. Their most prominent feature is that of the snout, which is distinctively long and narrow; almost shrew-like. They have a few whitish spots on the forehead and a small white stripe bordered by black lines which run from the head down to the shoulders, but lacks the distinct mask of their taxonomic siblings. The tail is long, bushy and uniformly coloured, while the paws are cream-coloured with long sharp curved claws. Only one male specimen has been properly scientifically documented, so variations between the sexes and between individuals of the same sex are unknown.(1)

Habitat

Little is known about the Vietnamese ferret-badger’s habitat. However, like other ferret-badgers, it’s possible that they live in burrows, hollows, or other small spaces and are likely to be accomplished diggers.

Behaviour

Little is known about the behaviour of the Vietnamese ferret-badger as there is no scientific data available.

Diet

They can be presumed to be similar to the Chinese ferret-badger, which are omnivores that feeds on snails, worms, seeds, insects, small mammals, and frogs as well as fruit.

Body length: 36.0 cm / 14.1 in (males)
Tail length: 17 cm / 6.7 in (males)
Weight: 0.8 kg / 1.7 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), unknown (captivity)
Range: Unknown, but one specimen was found in Cuc Phuong National park, Northern Vietnam.
Conservation status: Data deficient
References

  1. Nadler, Tilo, et al. “A new species of ferret-badger, genus Melogale, from Vietnam.” Der Zoologische Garten 80.5 (2011): 271-286
  2. Seedfeldt, Robert “Melogole moschata” animaldiversity.org, Animal Diversity Web (2003)

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