(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The Nilgiri marten, scientific name Martes gwatkinsii is the one marten species native to southern India. It lives within the hills of the Nilgiris and elements of the Western Ghats. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Rare, elusive, and a captivating carnivore, the sighting of a Nilgiri Marten has at all times been thought-about a jackpot for wildlife biologists, photographers, and fans alike.

Nilgiri Marten profile

Nilgiri martens happen predominantly within the moist tropical rainforests of southern India at an altitudinal range of 300 to 1200 m. There have been stories of sightings in coffee, cardamom, wattle plantations, swamps, grasslands, deciduous forests, and montane-evergreen forests.

Nilgiri Martens have a distinctly vivid yellowish-orange patch extending from throat to breast with a deep brown to black body coat and a long bushy tail. It is a medium-sized carnivore (weighing approx. 2kgs and 55-65 cm in size) with a characteristically pointed head, long neck, and slender body.

Nilgiri Martens is the one species of marten to be present in India. They have a body size between 55 and 65 cms (21.7 – 25.6 inches), a tail size between 40 and 45 cms (15.7 – 17.7 inches) they usually weigh roughly 2.1 kgs (4.6 lbs).

They are brown in color with a yellow or orange throat patch. They are related in look to the yellow-throated marten.

They are lively through the day and are primarily arboreal, though they do descend to the ground sometimes.

Being elusive among the many small carnivores, Nilgiri Marten stays as one of many least studied species with little or no information identified about its reproduction, feeding ecology, and behavior.

Nilgiri Martens are believed to be good hunters and are believed to deliver down even a mouse deer. They are identified to hunt animals of varied sizes resembling hares, rats, squirrels, reptiles, birds and in addition feed on their eggs.

They additionally feed on fruits, flowers, and buds. Opportunistically, in addition, they raid bee-hives.

This elusive animal, although it stays understudied than different mustelids, is acknowledged to maintain prey populations in control.

Nilgiri Marten

Their presence in a selected forest is used as a barometer of forest health. They are additionally one of many indicators and iconic species of the tropical forests of southern India.

Nilgiri Marten is the biggest and rarest of martens present in India and is endemic to the Western Ghats and the closest relative of Yellow-throated marten (Martes fluvigula) which has a wider distribution within the Himalayas.

Nilgiri Marten’s identified distribution within the Western Ghats is in three south Indian states viz. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

In the Anamalai Hills, Nilgiri Martens occupy varied forest sorts starting from moist deciduous forests to montane grasslands known as Shola grasslands above 2000 m.

Recently, within the Anamalais, there have been few sightings of Nilgiri Marten even among the many tea and coffee plantations.

The Nilgiri marten is much like the martes ligula, however is bigger and primarily totally different within the construction of the skull – it has an outstanding frontal concavity.

It is unmistakable within the area; its pelage is deep brown from head to rump, with the forequarters being virtually reddish, with a vivid throat ranging in color from yellow to orange.

It is simple to mistake it for a Malabar Giant Squirrel when on top of the tree, as a result of related colors however might be confirmed by its all-black tail. Nilgiri martens (Martes gwatkinsii) belong to the family Mustelidae which is similar to that of otters, badgers, and weasels.

But in contrast to Otters (who’re a riverine carnivores), Nilgiri Martens spend most of their time on timber and maneuver amidst the thick cover of the tropical forests of Southern India, therefore regionally referred to as Mara naai (which means: tree-dwelling dog) in Tamil and Malayalam.

They are diurnal in behavior and largely discovered solitary or in pairs. They are additionally identified to type searching events as much as 4.

It is about 55 to 65 cm long from head to vent and has a tail of 40 to 45 cm. It weighs about 2.1 kg.

Due to the rarity of the species, its natural predators are unknown; equally, direct searching threats from people are additionally low. Severe fragmentation of habitat stays the main menace for the fragmented distribution of Nilgiri Marten populations.

The species has been listed as ‘vulnerable’ below IUCN conservation standing. It additionally protected below schedule II of the Wild Life Protection Act (1972).

Continued efforts to extend connectivity within the canopies of our forest could be the important thing to extend alternatives for many people to cherish such a treasured sighting and actually hit the jackpot in these numerous forests of the Anamalai Hills.

Nilgiri martens average around 2.1 kg. Their body lengths are wherever from 55 to 65 cm, with their tail size being wherever from 40 to 45 cm. As a marten, they have a high basal metabolic fee.

Their coat shade is brown with a really distinct yellow or orange throat patch. Nilgiri martens are similar in size and look to yellow-throated martens.

Nilgiri martens are distinguished by their barely bigger size and by the construction of their skulls. Nilgiri marten braincases are flattened above with an outstanding frontal concavity.

Geographic Range

Nilgiri martens (Martes gwatkinsii) are endemic to the Western Ghats mountain range of southern India, which is discovered throughout the oriental geographic range.


The Nilgiri marten is deep brown from head to rump, with the forequarters being virtually reddish, with a vivid throat ranging in color from yellow to orange. It has an outstanding frontal concavity and is bigger than the yellow-throated marten.

It is about 55–65 cm (22–26 in) long from head to vent and has a tail of 40–45 cm (16–18 in). It weighs about 2.1 kg (4.6 lb).

Distribution and habitat

The Nilgiri marten primarily inhabits the shola grassland and high altitude evergreen forests, and infrequently the adjoining mid-altitude moist deciduous forests and business plantations, that span the Western Ghats within the South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

The marten’s English widespread name is derived from the Nilgiri Hills that type the middle of its range, however, sightings have been reported as far north as Charmadi Ghat and as far south because of the Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Nilgiri Marten

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Given Nilgiri marten’s presumably social nature, they probably talk each vocally and chemically, via scent marking, similarly to different martens. They probably use sight, scent, contact, and sound to understand their atmosphere, though little is at the moment identified about their communication.


Nilgiri martens are regarded as diurnal and largely arboreal count on for searching and foraging excursions. Nilgiri martens are regarded as social creatures, very similar to yellow-throated martens. It has been seen interacting and even searching in teams. Nilgiri martens usually prey upon small mammals resembling mouse deer.

The Nilgiri marten is diurnal. It is especially arboreal, however, descends to the ground sometimes. It is omnivorous and preys on birds, small mammals, and bugs resembling cicadas. It has additionally been noticed feeding on a wide range of fruits and seeds.

Food Habits

Martens are omnivorous. Nilgiri martens are partly frugivorous and insectivorous. They are believed to be good hunters and regularly kill and eat small mammals and birds.

There have even been stories of Nilgiri martens searching chevrotains, monitor lizards, crows, Indian large squirrels, and cicadas. They have additionally been identified to eat nectar within the type of honey.


Nilgiri martens don’t have any identified natural predators. However, as a small carnivore, it might be susceptible to predation by any bigger predators within the space.

Large predators within the Western Ghats area of southern India embody leopards, sloth bears, dholes, and tigers.


The lifespan of Nilgiri martens is at the moment unknown. However, a detailed relative, yellow-throated martens, has been identified to stay on average 14 years in captivity. Other martens have been identified to stay on average 10 to 18.1 years in captivity.

Nilgiri Marten Reproduction

The reproductive habits of the Nilgiri martens haven’t been studied. Many mustelids are polygynous, nevertheless, yellow-throated martens are identified to be monogamous.

As Nilgiri martens closest kinfolk they’re presumed to share many organic and behavioral traits; due to this fact it’s probably that Nilgiri martens are additionally monogamous.

Nilgiri marten’s reproductive habits haven’t been solely studied. However, we will presume related reproductive behaviors to shut kinfolk yellow-throated martens and different mustelids.

Most mustelids breed seasonally. Yellow-throated martens breed between both February and March or between June and August; Nilgiri martens might observe an identical reproductive schedule.

Other species of Martens bear delayed implantation. Gestation usually lasts 30 to 65 days for mustelids. Gestation duration of yellow-throated martens final between 220 and 290 days.

It is unknown whether or not Nilgiri marten have an equally long gestation interval as yellow-throated martens. Generally, mustelids are altricial, being born small and blind.

Information on the growth and improvement of Nilgiri martens hasn’t been documented. Yellow-throated martens have been recorded to have 2 to six kits per litter.

No information is out there relating to the parental funding of Nilgiri martens. Other mustelids are altricial, are weaned at 6 to eight weeks, and obtain parental care till about three to four months.

Nilgiri Marten


Mustelids primarily impression their environments via their results on prey populations. “Given their sturdy associations with structural complexity in forests, marten and the fisher are sometimes thought-about as helpful barometers of forest health and have been used as ecological indicators, flagship, and umbrella species in several elements of the world, significantly within the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia.

Thus, efforts to efficiently preserve and handle martens and fishers are related to the ecological fates of different forest-dependent species and might tremendously affect ecosystem integrity inside forests which might be more and more shared amongst wildlife and people.

Nilgiri Marten Conservation

Nilgiri martens are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are listed in Appendix III below the CITES appendices. “This species is listed as Vulnerable as a result of its complete extent of prevalence is lower than 20,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and there may be persevering with the decline within the extent and high quality of its forest habitat within the six discontinuous national parks the place is happening. In addition, remaining populations are severely fragmented as a result of a seamless decline within the extent and high quality of habitat.

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