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Melogale personata 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Melogale personata
Species Authority: I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831
Common Name(s):
English Large-toothed Ferret Badger, Burmese Ferret Badger, Large-toothed Ferret-Badger
Taxonomic Notes: Melogale personata is sometimes considered to include the disjunct populations orientalis of Java and everetti of Borneo, both here considered as separate species; M. personata does not otherwise occur on these islands. The external morphological similarities shared by all Melogale species bedevil identification of individuals to species. There has been no modern thorough taxonomic study of this genus; such an investigation is warranted (Long 1992).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Duckworth, J.W., Long, B., Willcox, D.H.A., Coudrat, C.N.Z., Timmins, R.J., Abramov, A.V., Chan, B. & Chutipong, W.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Rasphone, A., Ghimirey, Y., Baral, H., Yonzon, P., Roberton, S., Chetri, M., Datta, A., Choudhury, A., Kakati, K. & Holden, J.
Large-toothed Ferret Badger is difficult to categorise because its gross external similarity to Small-toothed Ferret Badger Melogale moschata means that most non-specimen records generated in the last 20-30 years cannot be identified to species. Despite the paucity of reliable recent records from across its range, it is listed as Least Concern based on a number of assumptions. If any of these are shown not to be valid, its categorisation would require review. First, it was clearly formerly common in at least some parts of its range, as shown by the number of historical specimens, Second, there are no records of Small-toothed Ferret Badger from the parts of South-east Asia with a harsh dry season and forests which are extensively deciduous, so all modern records of the genus from such areas - which, including degraded habitats, in total cover a vast area of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Myanmar - are assumed here to be Large-toothed Ferret Badger. Third, there are few records in these areas relative to many other small carnivore species readily found by modern survey methods, notably camera-trapping; this paucity seems more likely to reflect low spatial overlap between typical survey priorities (little-degraded forest) and this species's habitat use than to an all-round scarcity of this species (this is corroborated by the number of certain Large-toothed Ferret Badger records from highly degraded areas, and many more from them of the genus unidentified to species). The species is thereby inferred to be resilient to the general current levels of hunting and habitat change over most of its range. Thus it is further inferred not to be declining at anything like the rate needed for listing as Near Threatened, and its range and population size (on any plausible population density) are far in excess of values warranting listing as anything other than Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2008 – Data Deficient (DD)
  • 1996 – Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Large-toothed Ferret Badger is found in North-east India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, and southern Yunnan province (China) (Pocock 1941, Duckworth et al. 1999, Wang 2003, Roberton 2007, Dang et al. 2008, Islam et al. 2008, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Schank et al. 2009, Robichaud 2010, Choudhury 2013, Coudrat and Nanthavong 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014, Kakati et al. 2014). There is also an old record from western Guangdong province (China), disjunct from its known occurrence in Yunnan province (Wang 2003). It presumably occurs in Bhutan (the genus certainly does; Tempa et al. 2013) although no verifiable evidence was traced for this review. Historical records from 'Nepal' were accepted as of valid location by Hinton and Fry (1923) and Pocock (1941), authors who both doubted a number of other species conventionally listed for the country. Thapa (2014) by contrast called for confirmation of occurrence in Nepal. A recent photographic record unidentified to species (M. Chetri pers. comm. 2014) proves that the genus occurs in the country. 

The range is still incompletely known, with the first records of the genus being published recently for Bangladesh and Cambodia (Islam et al. 2008, Schank et al. 2009). Small-toothed Ferret Badger Melogale moschata and M. personata are very similar in external morphology. Although many sources suggest they can be separated by pattern of dorsal pelage and perhaps of face markings, examination of skins with associated skulls (so species identity is known) indicates that the purported characters are population-level tendencies that are not, on present knowledge, suitable for use to identify individual animals to species (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm. 2014, A.V. Abramov pers. comm. 2014, A.U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2014) and field records, including skin specimens lacking an associated skull or baculum, need to be considered as identifiable only to genus. Overconfident identification is an acute problem in areas like Thailand, where M. personata is the only species of the genus confirmed to occur, so records of the genus are routinely assumed to relate to this species without critical examination. A recent southward extension of known range, by several hundred kilometers, for M. moschata in Viet Nam through territory were otherwise only M. personata is known (Abramov and Rozhnov 2014), emphasises that identification should not be made through geographic presumption. 

Most past statements about its altitudinal range are or may be based on identifications from pelage pattern, and thus potentially include some records of Small-toothed Ferret Badger. Large-toothed Ferret Badger has been recorded from the lowlands (e.g. 15 m a.s.l.; Schank et al. 2009) up to at least 1,520 m (Pocock 1941); further records with specific altitude would help understand if altitudinal use varies across its range; for example, Van Peenen et al. (1971) wrote that it was "trapped in all habitats below 550 m", but (by implication) not above, on Mount Son Tra, Viet Nam.
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):UnknownEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):Unknown
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:UnknownLower elevation limit (metres):15
Upper elevation limit (metres):1520
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Large-toothed Ferret Badger's population size and trend is not well known, in large part because of the small number of recent records across its range that are reliably identified to species (i.e. the externally very similar Small-toothed Ferret Badger has been justifiably and explicitly excluded). Looking at patterns of overall ferret badger occurrence across this species's specimen-validated range (see 'Habitats and ecology'), it is impossible to assess directly the present population status of this species in areas where Small-toothed Ferret Badger is also known to occur, such as Yunnan province (China), Viet Nam and North-east India. However, there seem presently to be no known records of Small-toothed Ferret Badger from the large area of mainland South-east Asia experiencing a harsh dry season and with forest largely or wholly deciduous. This area includes most of the lowlands and lower hills of each of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh. In these countries, Small-toothed Ferret Badger is either unrecorded or known only from evergreen habitats (both forest and degraded areas), mostly in the highlands. (This assessment is not applicable throughout Small-toothed Ferret Badger's range; further north [and well north of any Large-toothed Ferret Badger record], in China, where Small-toothed Ferret Badger occurs in deciduous forest, the climate differs greatly from that in monsoonal South-east Asia, having for instance a much colder dry season.) Assuming that all the mainland South-east Asian records of ferret badgers in lowlands with harsh dry season to relate to Large-toothed Ferret Badger, this latter species clearly remains widespread but is typically recorded only rather rarely (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Robichaud 2010, Gray et al. 2014a, Chutipong et al. 2014). While this might indicate genuine rarity, a number of specimen-validated records come from highly degraded areas of South-east Asia (Van Peenen et al. 1971, Schank et al. 2009, Chutipong et al. 2014) or adjacent north-east India (Kakati et al. 2014), raising the possibility that it might be associated with edge and degraded areas (consistent with the general assessment of habitat use by Lekagul and McNeely (1977), and is simply much overlooked by the focus of most wildlife survey in South-east Asia on little-degraded forest. General mammal hunting is generally very heavy in Lao PDR and Viet Nam and uses mostly unselective techniques: thus, Large-toothed Ferret Badger populations in these countries might well be depleted, in both degraded and forest areas (see Duckworth et al. 2010, Coudrat et al. 2014). Hunting levels are typically much lower in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Gray et al. 2014a, Chutipong et al. 2014). Too little information is available from India and China (specifically, the precise locations of multiple records of both species relative to patterns of dry-season harshness and of relevant survey effort) to speculate on Large-toothed Ferret Badger population status in these countries.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Determining the habitat use of Large-toothed Ferret Badger is hindered by the low proportion of recent records across its range that are reliably identified to species (i.e., the externally very similar Small-toothed Ferret Badger has been clearly excluded). Looking at patterns of overall ferret badger occurrence across this species's specimen-validated range, there is a startling difference in encounter rates and inferred abundance between Viet Nam and southern China on the one hand, and Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar on the other. In the former, ferret badgers are widely and commonly recorded (Roberton 2007, Lau et al. 2010, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3). In the latter countries, records are only sporadic, and in total, relatively few in number (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Gray et al. 2014a, Chutipong et al. 2014). Lao PDR shows a mixed pattern: over most of the country, the genus is rarely recorded (as in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia) but in some parts of the country's east, it is found commonly (Robichaud 2010, Coudrat et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014b). The parts of Lao PDR where the genus has been commonly recorded are close to the Viet Namese border and are similar to Viet Nam in terms of climate (relatively benign dry season), habitat (wet evergreen forest) and associated habitat-indicator species  (such as Annamite Striped Rabbit Nesolagus timminsi, Saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis and Owston's Civet Chrotogale owstoni). The strong geographic basis to this pattern in Lao PDR suggests, firstly, that the widespread low detection rates in camera-trap surveys in countries such as Thailand and Myanmar do not reflect any inherent unsuitability of the methodology for finding ferret badgers, and, secondly, that many, perhaps most, of the camera-trap records in Viet Nam and southern China are of a species which does not occur in the parts of South-east Asia with a harsh dry season: based on the overall pattern of specimen-validated records, this would be Small-toothed Ferret Badger. The ferret badgers recorded in the large proportion of South-east Asia with a hot, almost arid dry season are thus hypothesised to be all Large-toothed Ferret Badgers, in keeping with all certainly identified specimens from such habitats. However, this latter species also occurs in syntopy with Small-toothed Ferret Badger in evergreen forests with a benign dry season (e.g., Robichaud 2010, Coudrat and Nanathavong 2013). Too little information is available from India and China (specifically, the precise locations of multiple records of both species relative to patterns of dry-season harshness and of relevant survey effort) to speculate on relative habitat use of the two ferret badger species in these countries.

Based on the above proposition, which remains to be confirmed, a number of preliminary deductions can be made about Large-toothed Ferret Badger in South-east Asia. Other than that it certainly occurs in evergreen forest, little can be said about its abundance, altitudinal use or microhabitat associations in that habitat: there are far too few evergreen forest records certainly of this species with precise habitat details to make strong inferences. However, the rarity of ferret badgers in camera-trap surveys of evergreen forest blocks long-isolated and distant from the main Annamite range (and from certain records of Small-toothed Ferret Badger), such as Khao Yai and Phu Khieo, Thailand (Chutipong et al. 2014), which have had multiple intensive surveys of the evergreen forest interior, suggests that Large-toothed Ferret Badger is not common in unbroken old-growth evergreen forest. A number of specimen-validated records of Large-toothed Ferret Badger come from highly degraded areas of South-east Asia (Van Peenen et al. 1971, Schank et al.2009, Chutipong et al. 2014) and adjacent North-east India (Kakati et al. 2014), together with many records of ferret badgers not identified to species (e.g., Than Zaw et al. 2008, Chutipong et al. 2014, Kakati et al. 2014). This suggests that Large-toothed Ferret Badger might be common in, perhaps even associated with, edge and degraded areas (consistent with the general assessment of habitat use by Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Indeed, Van Peenen et al. (1971) stated that the species was "trapped in all habitats below 550 m, including near dwellings...did not range far into rain forest, apparently preferring areas of thicker undergrowth, either grass, brush, or small trees". As with Javan Mongoose Herpestes javanicus and Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica, Large-toothed Ferret Badger would thus be much overlooked in South-east Asia because of the focus of most wildlife survey there on old-growth, predominantly evergreen, forests (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Duckworth et al. 2010, Chutipong et al. 2014).

Camera-trap records (assigned to this species as above) suggest that it is largely nocturnal.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):4.1
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In areas where ground-dwelling mammals of this size-class are caught by unselective methods such as snares, this species is presumably eaten widely. There is no particular suggestion that it is specifically sought anywhere in its range, but inadequate information to say that it is not.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): General mammal hunting with non-selective methods is very high in parts of this species's range, notably Lao PDR and Viet Nam. Ferret badgers are often caught in snares and indeed various recent records identified to species come from salvage from snare lines (e.g., Abramov and Rozhnov 2014). It is quite plausible that such hunting keeps populations artificially low in these areas. The species is also probably taken for food frequently in all other parts of its range where wild mammals are widely eaten, such as North-east India (A.U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2006) and Cambodia (Schank et al. 2014). The relatively high number of Large-toothed Ferret Badger records from highly degraded, even largely anthropogenic, areas (Van Peenen et al. 1971, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Schank et al.2009, Chutipong et al. 2014, Kakati et al. 2014) suggests that the widespread habitat conversion, fragmentation and degradation across it range is not particularly detrimental. There are too few records certainly identified to species with detailed habitat information to be sure that this species is not threatened, but there is no evidence that it is.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In India, Large-toothed Ferret Badger is protected in Schedule 2, Part 1. The genus has been recorded in various protected areas in Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR and Cambodia (Than Zaw et al. 2008; Chutipong et al. 2014; Gray et al. 2014a,b) in areas speculated to be climatically suitable for this species but not for the similar-looking Small-toothed Ferret Badger (see 'Habitats and ecology'). With no identified threats across most of its range, no near-term interventions are apparent. The conservation need related to the species is for a far better understanding of it distribution and natural history. Achieving this would be assisted by greater awareness among all those likely to encounter and report ferret badgers, particularly as road-kills or in traps (and thus where identification can be confirmed to species) of the importance of a careful identification to species (and acceptance that on present knowledge this in unlikely to be possible unless the animal is in the hand, or tested genetically) and for publication of such records.

Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Long, B., Willcox, D.H.A., Coudrat, C.N.Z., Timmins, R.J., Abramov, A.V., Chan, B. & Chutipong, W. 2016. Melogale personata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41627A45209826. . Downloaded on 30 June 2016.
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