Just so Story #5 : Why the yellow-throated marten got attention …

I wrote this piece to promote the success of the WildCRU Wild Musteloid Conference (March 2013), where Dr Susan Cheyne presented on OuTrop’s data(1) about a furry face in Sabangau – the charming yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula)...

WildCRU, in association with the IUCN/SSC Otter and Small Carnivore Specialist Groups just finished holding their Wild Musteloid Conference , detailing the biology and conservation of wild mustelids, skunks, procyonids (raccoon, ringtail, and coatimundi) and red pandas. Susan (OuTrop Director) was able to present on the first ever data of yellow-throated martens living in a peat-swamp forest habitat!

©OuTrop camera trap photo of Martes flavigula

In Sabanagu (Borneo), we can celebrate the awesome family of Mustelidae via our shy friend, the yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula). Based on four years of continuous camera trapping, Susan discussed how this musteloid lives in a peatswamp. This Asian species of marten is known in tropical forests, with populations occurring around the Sunda Shelf and the populations in front of our camera traps in central Borneo. They have a wide distribution , made of stable populations, with populations living in a number of protected areas. As this species has this large range and usually lacks major threats, it is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern.

Martens are lithe, active animals, adapted to living in taiga – the terrestrial biome with the third lowest annual average temperatures – and can be found in coniferous and northern deciduous forests. Considering these adaptations and that most of the species live across the northern hemisphere, we are lucky to get to glimpse their behaviour in Sabangau! Of the six mustelids living in Borneo, only three are present in Sabangau. The yellow-throated marten has been confirmed using camera traps, whilst the other two remain elusive to our cameras and to research in terms of their peatswamp based life styles.

Currently hunting of this species seems minimal, though this marten is not protected by Indonesian Law. The yellow-throated marten holds extensive, but not permanent, home-ranges. It actively patrols its territory, and in some habitats has been known to cover over c.15 km in a 24hr period. OuTrop have eight images captured since 2008, showing this diurnal behaviour.   One of these photos has two individuals – mother and cub! Such few data exists on population densities, behavioural ecology or diet on this species that these photos – and what they can tell us and the ICUN – are important. No data on the species exists for tropical peat-swamp forest, so this is a ‘first ever’ – from Sabangau via OuTrop!

Yellow-throated martins have a wide variation
of colouring and habitat, see here!
Photo ©ARKive and John Holmes.

The data collected by OuTrop suggests that the yellow-throated marten is at much smaller density than other tropical forests. It is also suggested that individuals dispersal, both over space and within time periods, is greater than in evergreen or sub-tropical forests. This is due to the locations and frequency of revisits to our cameras, from which you can get a sense of individuals’ dispersal ; 4 of 27 total camera stations captured yellow-throated martens and of these four, only two stations/locations had repeat visits.

The yellow-throated marten typically preys on rats, mice, hares, snakes, lizards, eggs and ground nesting birds.  Importantly, it supplements its diet with nectar and fruit(2) so it is considered an important seed disperser. It can be a sneaky little scavenger too – in areas where it is sympatric with tigers, the yellow throated marten can trail them and feed on any leftovers!

This species has got our attention by being quiet and few in number… Given the wide geographic distribution of this species, there are almost certainly differences in behavioural ecology across different habitats. It is vital that more data is collected from peat-swamp forest to note behavioural differences, to see if the yellow-throated marten’s conservation status holds and to get an idea of the ecosystem services this species might provide when living in this habitat. We hope to be able to get more information specifically regarding group size, population numbers, diet and possible role in seed dispersal.

©Thea Powell/OuTrop
View the conference information here!
1: The Yellow-throated Marten (Martes flavigula) in Tropical Peat-Swamp Forests (Poster) | Susan M. Cheyne and David W. Macdonald

2: Pocock, R. I. (1941). [[The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma]]: Mammals Volume Taylor and Francis


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