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Malay Weasel

Family : Mustelidae
Species : Mustela nudipes

Head-body length : 30-36 cm
Tail length : 22-26 cm
Weight : around 1 kg

The beautiful Malay Weasel occurs in a variety of habitats including primary forest, secondary forest, swamp forest, heath forest, scrub, grassland and other disturbed habitats. It is exclusively terrestrial, and is mainly diurnal, though nocturnal activity has been noted by some observers. Elevation records for the species are as high as 1700 metres (Duckworth et al, 2006).

This diminutive carnivore, which has a head-body length no greater than 36 cm, is widespread, albeit with a patchy distribution. It is, however, rarely seen probably due to a low population density and its habit of foraging in undergrowth and largely avoiding open trails.

This animal is a skillful hunter, able to hunt down fast-moving prey such as terrestrial rodents (rats, mice and possibly squirrels). Its elongate body shape also allows it to descend into the burrows of ground-dwelling mammals. In addition to rodents, it may feed on any other available small prey including birds, reptiles and large insects, though there is little known of this animal's ecology.

Its fur is generally a rich golden colour, varying in tone from yellowish to reddish-brown, but sometimes pale greyish-white. Often the head and tip of the tail are white. Its body is elongate, with short legs, and the tail is bushy and held horizontally.

A litter of up to four young has been recorded, but sightings of this animal are typically of lone individuals.

The Malay Weasel occurs in southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. There are no records from Singapore. There is an erroneous record from Java, but clearly the species does not occur there (Duckworth et al, 2006).

Fig 1 : A Malay Weasel from lower montane forest, active in the hot afternoon sun. This specimen has a rich golden fur, typical of the species, but lacks white fur on its head and at the tip of its tail.

References : M3, M5

Duckworth, J. W., Lee, B. P. Y., Meijaard, E., Meiri, S. 2006.  The Malay Weasel Mustela nudipes: distribution, natural history and a global conservation status review.  Small Carnivore Conservation 01/2006; 34-35:2-21.


Fig 1