Mustela felipei 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Mustela felipei Izor & de la Torre, 1978
Common Name(s):
English Colombian Weasel
Spanish Comadreja Colombiana
Taxonomic Notes: Izor and de la Torre (1978) suggested that M. africana and M. felipei form a monophyletic group. Youngman (1982) placed M. felipei in subgenus Grammogale; Abramov (2000) placed it in subgenus Cabreragale.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-02-10
Assessor(s): González-Maya, J.F., Emmons, L., Helgen, K. & Arias-Alzate, AAA
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M. & Duckworth, J.W.
Colombian Weasel is listed as Vulnerable under C2a(i), inferring a population size of at least 1,350 mature individuals from the current known range and a plausible population density, and assuming a continuing decline in population due to ongoing deforestation (acknowledging the species may potentially tolerate some level of forest degradation). The range is sufficiently extensive to make it highly likely that no one subpopulation holds over 1,000 mature individuals. In addition, it is plausible that the species might meet the threshold for Vulnerable under D1 (a total population of 1,000 mature individuals or fewer) if the density is only three-quarters of the arbitrary figure given in the 'Population' section (and again assuming that the current range is not larger). This listing may be slightly evidentiary. Indeed, a categorisation of Endangered under C2a(i) is not out of the question, especially as no subpopulation may hold more than 250 mature individuals; however, equally, the total population size might also be severely underestimated, especially if the range is larger than currently documented (implying a larger population than speculated here). On balance, it is unlikely that this species's the true range has been fully documented so far, especially for a species so difficult to identify by typical mammal survey methods. Hence, Vulnerable seems to be a more appropriate listing, pending re-assessment when more information becomes available.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Only six specimens of Colombian Weasel, from five localities in four provinces or departments, have been obtained: from western Colombia (departments of Chocó-Valle del Cauca, Huila and Cauca) and northern Ecuador (province of Napo). The most northern is from 4°51'N, and the most southern from 0°25'N. Recent re-examination of Neotropical  Mustela  specimens in many collections revealed no new M. felipei, re-affirming the conventional view of the rarity of the species; many published accounts contain records in error or for which the reliability cannot be judged (Rámirez-Chaves et al. 2012). It is however possible that the species has been under-recorded because, in this part of the Andes, weasels in general are extremely challenging to identify in the field: this species is morphologically very similar to Long-tailed Weasel M. frenata (Rámirez-Chaves et al. 2012).

Tirira and Gonzalez-Maya (2009) traced records from 1,525 to 2,700 m a.s.l.; a record from a lower altitude was considered to be an error of identification by Rámirez-Chaves et al. (2012).
Countries occurrence:
Colombia; Ecuador
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:5600Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:38400
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Number of Locations:5Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:UnknownLower elevation limit (metres):1525
Upper elevation limit (metres):2700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No information regarding population size, density or trend is known for the species. Recent efforts to record the species in six potential localities within its range (two near two previously known localities) failed to detect it (Ramírez-Chaves and Patterson 2014). At the other three of the five known localities, natural habitat was severely transformed and fragmented.

Schreiber et al. (1989) noted that it is among the least-recorded carnivores in South America, and assumed this likely to reflect a genuine great rarity. Considering the species is difficult to identify even in the hand, it was suggested that it might be more represented in collections than previously thought; however, a recent review of most collections with mammal specimens from this species's range corroborated the rarity of the species in collections (Ramírez-Chaves et al. 2012). The rarity of sight and other non-specimen records cannot be taken as evidence of the species's abundance: it cannot, on current knowledge, be safely identified except in the hand. Without this ability to generate sight records, it will remain a labour-intensive challenge to determine the species's status: the perceived distribution and conservation status of two forest weasels of Indochina, Stripe-backed Weasel M. strigidorsa and Yellow-bellied Weasel M. kathiah, have been completely changed by birders' sight-records, often photographically documented, backed up by road-kills in areas where tourist roads have penetrated montane forest and bring in large numbers of nature-aware tourists (Abramov et al. 2008, Supparatvikorn et al. 2012). For these two latter species, and a third South-east Asian congener, Malay Weasel M. nudipes, examination of recording patterns in areas where multiple methods are used show that camera-trapping is very poor at detecting them, and even when these species are recorded by formal survey or research activities, it is usually incidentally outside the structured methodology; a remarkable number of records come from observers taking mid-day baths in forest streams (Duckworth et al. 2006, Abramov et al. 2008, Supparatvikorn et al. 2012). Such options are greatly reduced for Colombian Weasel: road-kills and animals retained by villagers (perhaps killed in retribution for perceived livestock losses) are the only plausible modes of generating incidental records where the confident identification to species can be upheld.

The area of suitable habitat (as the extent of natural habitat remaining within the known Extent of Occurrence, and within the altitude band of 1,500-2,700 m a.s.l., within which all records lie) was assessed as about 5,600 km² (J.F. González-Maya pers. comm. 2015). A density of one full-grown animal per 2.8 km² sounds credible for a forest weasel for which all evidence suggests the high likelihood of living at low densities: this would give 2,000 animals. Assuming about two-thirds of the population comprises mature individuals, the total global number of mature individuals would be about 1,350. The range is sufficiently extensive to make it highly likely that no one subpopulation holds over 1,000 mature individuals.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1350Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown
No. of subpopulations:2Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Almost nothing is known of Colombian Weasel's habitat preferences (Schreiber et al. 1989), but its naked foot soles with extensive interdigital webbing and records in areas of riparian habitats suggest that the species is adapted to water-edge environments (Ramírez-Chaves & Patterson 2014). The few specimens have been obtained from between 1,525 and 2,700 m, an altitude range where cloud forests predominate.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):5.3
Movement patterns:Unknown

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Colombian Weasel occurs in a limited geographic area where deforestation is rampant (Nowak 2005, Etter and van Wyngaarden 2000); a significant proportion of the estimated range of the species has been deforested for agriculture and illicit crops. Between 1990 and 2010, forest cover net loss within the species´s known extent of occurrence (EOO) reached 10% overall, and was 13% within its suitable habitat (areas within its EOO) between 1,500 and 2,700 m a.s.l.); for the last potential distribution model for the species (Ramírez-Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009) a net forest loss of 26% was estimated for the period of 1990-2010. Forest lost estimates before 1990 indicate even a larger net loss (Etter and van Wyngaarden 2000). Currently, there is only 36% of forest cover within the EOO, 35% within the altitudinally suitable EEO, and 25% within the last modelled distribution. These deforestation trends are likely to continue given the historical drivers still operating in the area. The extent of the species's association with forest is, however, unknown, so the relationship of these deforestation statistics to the species's population trend is also unclear. For example, the former could overestimate the latter if the species is not particularly tied to forest, or if densities are higher in degraded and edge areas than in pristine forest; or they could be an underestimate if the species is tied to a particularly rapidly declining microhabitat.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: One specimen was collected in Cueva de los Guacharos National Park (Ramírez-Chaves et al. 2012). Purace National Park is also close to a collecting site (Schreiber et al. 1989). In Ecuador the species has not been recorded in any protected area (Tirira and González-Maya 2009). Potentially, according to models, the species could be potentially present in 10 protected areas in Colombia (Ramírez-Chaves and Mantilla-Meluk 2009, Burneo et al. 2009) and 14 in Ecuador (Burneo et al. 2009); but no confirmed records exist from any of these areas (Ramírez-Chaves et al. 2012). Determining the conservation needs is hampered by the minimal information on the species's natural history. It is therefore a high priority to find and study an extant population, particularly its habitat use and threats (if any). At least five field efforts in six localities in Colombia (two adjacent to previous records) failed to detect the species (Ramírez-Chaves and Patterson 2014, J.F. González-Maya pers. comm. 2015). Moreover, natural habitat at three of the five known localities have been severely fragmented in recent years.

Citation: González-Maya, J.F., Emmons, L., Helgen, K. & Arias-Alzate, AAA. 2016. Mustela felipei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T14026A45201088. . Downloaded on 18 December 2017.
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