Melogale orientalisJavan ferret-badger

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Geographic Range

Javan ferret-badgers, Melogale orientalis, have a very limited range, occurring only on the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. Records have documented Javan ferret-badgers in the hills and mountains of both islands, but not the plains. There are possibly two subspecies of Javan ferret-badgers, with M. orientalis orientalis inhabiting eastern Java and M. orientalis sundaicus inhabiting western Java. (Duckworth and Brickle, 2008; Long, 1992; Riffel, 1991)

Habitat

There are very few reported sightings of Javan ferret-badgers in the wild. All records report sightings in forests, but the species does not appear to be dependent on primary forest. Some sightings have been in secondary forest and rubber plantations. Other records show Javan ferret-badgers in thick undergrowth of primary montane forest habitats, greater than 2 km from the forest edge. (Brickle, 2007; Duckworth, et al., 2008; Riffel, 1991)

  • Range elevation
    1,360 to 2,000 m
    to ft

Physical Description

Javan ferret-badgers are small slender-bodied carnivores that typically weigh 1 to 2 kg. Their body length ranges from 35 to 40 cm; with a tail length of 14.5 to 17.0 cm. Javan ferret-badgers have small heads and faces that taper to a thick nose. The upper and lower jaws of Javan ferret-badgers are the same length, but the upper jaw appears to extend past the end of the lower jaw. Their nose has nostrils opening on the front and a mustache below that contains vibrissae extending posteriorly. Their eyes are prominent and sit medially between their ears and nose. Their limbs are slender and end at a five-toed foot, with one claw per toe. Claws are concavely curved and longer on the forefeet than on the hind feet, the claws on the middle digit are the longest. The middle digit is the longest, followed by shorter (but equal length) toes on the second and fourth digits, and the thumb and fifth digit are the shortest, but equal in length. Anterior extremities are approximately 11.5 cm long and posterior extremities are about 12.7 cm long. (Horsfield, 1824; Hunter, 2011)

Javan ferret-badgers have silky brown fur, with reddish tints, but may appear gray and tawny depending on ambient light. In addition to a white spot and lateral patches on their head and face, Javan ferret-badgers have white markings (sometimes with yellow tints) on their neck, throat, breast and abdomen. A band of dark brown fur extends from behind their eyes, down their throat, and behind their ears, eventually connecting with their ear lobes. A transverse band of gray fur covers their face between the eyes up the crown of their head. Both ears and their upper jaw have white fur borders. (Horsfield, 1824)

Sexual dimorphism has not been reported for Javan ferret-badgers, but they are a very poorly studied species (data deficient according to the IUCN). Javan ferret-badgers are very similar in appearance to Bornean ferret-badgers (Melogale everetti) and large-toothed ferret-badgers (Melogale personata). Ferret-badgers' taxonomy has a confusing history due to species group heterogeneity. In the past, Javan, Bornean and large-toothed ferret-badgers were sometimes considered the same species, though they are now three distinct species. There are potentially two subspecies of Javan ferret-badgers, distinguished by geographic location. Eastern Java is home to Melogale orientalis orientalis and western Java is home to Melogale orientalis sundaicus. The eastern subspecies is typically larger than the western subspecies. (Riffel, 1991)

  • Range mass
    1 to 2 kg
    2.20 to 4.41 lb
  • Range length
    35 to 40 cm
    13.78 to 15.75 in

Reproduction

There is currently no information on the mating systems of Javan ferret-badgers. Sightings of small groups of juveniles and adults foraging together may suggest some type of communal or social breeding system. (Duckworth, et al., 2008; Zhang, et al., 2010)

Little information exists on the reproductive behaviors of Javan ferret-badgers. Congenerics, such as Chinese ferret-badgers (Melogale moschata) and Burmese ferret-badgers (Melogale personata) typically breed in March and most births occur in May and June, but some young are born as late as December (Chinese ferret-badger). Other congenerics, such as Taiwan ferret-badgers (Melogale moschata subaurantiaca), have an extended breeding season (February to September), exhibiting full reproductive physiological activity from February to March. Average litters for congenerics, such as Chinese ferret-badgers and Burmese ferret-badgers, range from 1 to 4 young. Specific information for Javan ferret-badgers is unknown, but they may exhibit similar patterns of reproductive behavior to some of their close relatives. (Hunter, 2011; Pei and Wang, 1995; Pei, 2001; Storz and Wozencraft, 1999)

Young Javan ferret-badgers are likely altricial, requiring significant parental investment. Newborns of closely-related ferret-badgers (Melogale moschata) are blind and do not open their eyes for two weeks post-partum, which may also be the case in Javan ferret-badgers. (Storz and Wozencraft, 1999)

Lifespan/Longevity

Lifespan and longevity information are not available for Javan ferret-badgers.

Behavior

Javan ferret-badgers have not been extensively studied, so there has been little information reported on their behaviors. Ferret-badgers of the genus Melogale are fossorial creatures that opt to use preexisting holes in the ground, instead of expending energy to create new holes. Javan ferret-badgers are nocturnal and adult-juvenile groups forage together between dusk and dawn. Anecdotal evidence suggests some arboreal affinity within the species. (Duckworth, et al., 2008; Pei and Wang, 1995; Riffel, 1991; Zhang, et al., 2010)

Home Range

The home range size of Javan ferret-badgers is unknown, but home ranges for the closely related Chinese ferret-badgers (Melogale moschata) range from 8.6 to 578 ha. There is potential for home range overlap between sexes, but home range sizes remain undetermined. (Duckworth, et al., 2008; Zhang, et al., 2010)

Communication and Perception

No information is available on their communication or perception, but like other mustelids, Javan ferret-badgers may use anal scent glands and associated pheromones for communication. (Pei, 2001)

Food Habits

Javan ferret-badgers forage at night. In search of food, they dig through leaf litter (sometimes in groups) and scavenge picnic sites. (Chuang and Lee, 1996; Duckworth, et al., 2008; Pei, 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

As mesocarnivores, larger predators likely prey upon Javan ferret-badgers, but records of predation are non-existent. For other closely related species, including Chinese ferret-badgers (Melogale moschata), dens and nocturnal activity are potential strategies to minimize predation. Aposematic coloration and the anal scent gland have been suggested as predator deterrents in other closely related species of ferret-badgers. (Pei, 2001; Zhang, et al., 2010)

Ecosystem Roles

Javan ferret-badgers are small carnivores that may control their prey populations. Closely-related Chinese ferret-badgers feed on invertebrates, including cockroaches, which may help control invertebrate populations within the species' range. Species specific information is not available for Javan ferret-badgers. (Seefeldt, 2003)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Javan ferret-badgers are traded in the wildlife pet market, though such operations are typically illegal. (Kim, 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No information is available on negative economic impacts of Javan ferret-badgers, but they could potentially be disease vectors. Javan ferret-badgers' close relative, Chinese ferret-badgers, sometimes carry rabies, canine distemper and SARS, but these do not appear to impact their populations. (Duckworth and Brickle, 2008; Hunter, 2011)

Conservation Status

The status of Javan ferret-badgers is not well-known. Currently, the IUCN lists Javan ferret-badgers as 'data deficient'. Javan ferret-badgers are restricted to small areas on the islands of Java and Bali, which face deforestation. Additional pressures from hunting and illegal pet trade also threaten Javan ferret-badgers. Without more data, actual pressures and status information are at best, educated guesses. (Duckworth and Brickle, 2008; Hunter, 2011; Kim, 2012; Riffel, 1991)

Contributors

Kristin Denryter (author), Northern Michigan University, John Bruggink (editor), Northern Michigan University, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

aposematic

having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carrion

flesh of dead animals.

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Brickle, N. 2007. Sightings of Javan ferret badger Melogale orientalis. Small Carnivore Conservation, 36(50): 50. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/sccwiki/images/d/dd/SCC36_Brickle.pdf.

Chuang, S., L. Lee. 1996. Food habits of three carnivore species (Viverricula indica, Herpestes urva, and Melogale moschata) in Fushan Forest, northern Taiwan. Journal of the Zoological Society of London, 243 (1): 71-79.

Duckworth, J., N. Brickle. 2008. "Melogale orientalis" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41697/0.

Duckworth, J., S. Roberton, N. Brickle. 2008. Further notes on Javan ferret badger Melogale orientalis at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Java. Small Carnivore Conservation, 39: 39-40. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/sccwiki/images/8/8b/SCC39_Duckworth_et_al.pdf.

Horsfield, T. 1824. Zoological Researches in Java and the Neighbouring Islands. London: Kingsbury, Parybury, & Allen.

Hunter, L. 2011. Carnivores of the World. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.

Kim, M. 2012. Notes on live ferret badger Melogale trade in Java. Small Carnivore Conservation, 46: 30-32. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://smallcarnivoreconservation.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Kim_SCC46.pdf.

Long, C. 1992. Is the Javan ferret-badger a subspecies or a species?. Small Carnivore Conservation, 6: 17. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/sccwiki/images/2/24/Number_6.PDF.

Pei, K. 2001. Daily activity budgets of the Taiwan ferret badger (Melogale moschata subaurantiaca) in captivity. Endangered Species Research, 3: 1-11.

Pei, K., Y. Wang. 1995. Some observations on the reproduction of the Taiwan ferret badger (Melogale moschata subaurantiaca) in southern Taiwan. Zoological Studies, 34 (2): 88-95.

Riffel, M. 1991. An update on the Javan ferret-badger Melogale orientalis (Horsfield, 1821). Mustelid & Viverrid Conservation, 5: 2-3. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/sccwiki/images/c/c0/Number_5.PDF.

Seefeldt, R. 2003. "Melogale moschata Chinese ferret-badger" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 08, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Melogale_moschata/.

Storz, J., W. Wozencraft. 1999. Melogale moschata. Mammalian Species, 631: 1-4. Accessed January 30, 2013 at http://www.science.smith.edu/msi/pdf/i0076-3519-631-01-0001.pdf.

Zhang, L., Y. Wang, Y. Zhou, C. Newman, Y. Kaneko, D. Macdonald, P. Jiang, P. Ding. 2010. Ranging and activity patterns of the group-living ferret badger Melogale moschata in central China. Journal of Mammalogy, 91 (1): 101-108.