Yellow-bellied Weasel Mustela kathiah

Range Description:

This species is found in "Myanmar, southern and Eastern China, the Indochinese peninsula, and Nepal" (Wozencraft, 2005) and in addition Northern Thailand, India and Bhutan (Pocock 1941, Duckworth and Robichaud 2005, P. Yonzon pers. comm.). Corbet and Hill (1992) report a lower altitudinal limit of 1,000 m. In the Himalayas, this species is found between the altitude of 1,800 and 4,000 m ( In Bhutan to 3,800 m (Yonzon pers. comm.). In India found as low as 1,000 m (Choudhury pers. comm.). In Hong Kong, it is found from close to sea-level to over 200 m (Lau pers. comm. 2006). In Western Himalaya from 3,000-5,200 m in the cold deserts (Muddapa pers. comm.). This species is little known in Lao PDR, where one recent sighting was in Fokienia forest at about 1,500 m in Nam Xam National Biodiversity Conservation Area (within 2002' to 14' N and 104 18' to 53' E) in January 1998 (Showler et al. 1998), though historical records came from Xiangkhouang town (19 20' N and 103 22' E) in 1926, Phongsaly town in 1929 (Osgood 1932, Delacour 1940), and the Bolaven Plateau (within 14 42' to 15 30' N and 106 15' to 50' E) at about 1,200 to 1,400 m in 1932 (Tizard 2002, Legendre 1932). In 2004 and 2005 it was recorded in Phongsaly, the northernmost province in Lao, on Phou Fa (=Fa mountain, 21 41' N and 102 06' E, 1,550 m) and close to Ban Bakong (=Bakong village, 21 37' N 102 05' E, 1,200 m) (Duckworth and Robichaud 2005).  Historically, most of the records of this species in Southeast Asia come from the northern highlands of Vietnam, though there are two recent records to the south, in the Annamite mountains of central Viet Nam (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005), one was recorded in primary evergreen forest at 1,000 m in A Vuong proposed Nature Reserve, Tay Giang district, Quang Nam Province (16 00' N and 107 30' E) in 2003 (Long et al, 2004) and another in the Ngoc Linh highlands at about 15 degree N latitude in the late 1990s (J. C. Eames in litt. 1999). It may yet be found to extend even farther south in Indochina (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005). In Thailand, there are no historical records, though it apparently occurs in the northern highlands (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005), as Vikorn (2001) reported a road kill specimen of Mustela nivalis from Doi Pha Luang station, which Duckworth later determined was Mustela katiah. (and not M. nivalis as it was previously identified). There are multiple skins of this species from Myanmar, all collected in the north (Pocock, 1941: 359, Than Zaw et al. in press.).
Countries: Native:
Bhutan; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Thailand; Vietnam


It is possible that the low number of records from Lao PDR may reflect generally low encounter rates of tropical weasels (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005). There is no reason to assume that this species is rare, and the low number of species in collection may be a relict of collection and trapping techniques (Duckworth per comm.). Recent camera trap records suggest that this species is fairly common in forested areas in southern China (Lau pers. comm. 2006), where few other small carnivores survive in meaningful numbers.
Population Trend: Unknown

 Habitat and Ecology:

 It is generally associated with large extents of high elevation (1,000 m+) terrain. It may occur well below 1,000 m in such areas, but unlikely that the species occurs at lower elevations in areas away from high altitude terrain (except in parts of China and Vietnam). In Lao PDR, this little known species was sighted in Fokienia forest at about 1,500 m (Showler et al. 1998). In Lao PDR, this species was recorded from "relict and degraded montane evergreen forest, linked through extensive scrub and grassland to various other small and degraded forest patches (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005)." It seems likely that this species is tolerant of quite severe habitat degradation, and it appears to persist in the face of heavy hunting (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005), supporting findings in heavily disturbed areas of southern China (M. W. N. Lau pers. comm. 2006). It was recorded in primary evergreen forest in Vietnam in 2003 (Long et al. 2004). It probably occurs at lower elevations in the northeast the country (Timmins pers. comm.) and there is one record from the Ke Go lowlands (Roberton et al. in prep). In India, it is found from 1,800 to 2,200 m in temperate forests and cold deserts (Choudhury pers com).
Systems: Terrestrial

 Major Threat(s):

As with most other weasels, there are no major threats known or suspected to this species. In particular, the effects of the current high levels of forest degradation within much of its range cannot be assumed to be strongly negative, given the number of records from degraded and fragmented areas.

 Conservation Actions:

 This species was sighted in Nam Xam National Biodiversity Conservation Area in 1998 (Showler et al. 1998). It is listed in Schedule II part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Appendix III of CITES ( More information is needed on this species in Lao PDR before a conservation status can be certainly determined (Duckworth and Robichaud, 2005). In Vietnam, this species is protected in group 2b, because it is an enemy of rats (GMA Small Carnivore Workshop 2006). This species is listed as Near Threatened on the China Red List (Wang and Xie, 2004).