Yellow-throated martens (Martes flavigula) are the largest members of the marten family. They are also called Himalayan martens, due to their presence across much of the mountain range. In the hilly forests in Uttarakhand, for example, they can be seen scampering up trees, crossing roads, and scrounging around garbage dumps on the outskirts of small towns. “I see them every other day,” says Soumya Prasad, an ecologist who lives in the region and has been studying seed dispersal and garbage disposal in the Western Himalayas. “Yellow-throated martens are experts at raiding nests, very good hunters, and they have this curved away of moving that is amazing to watch.”
Soumya’s colleauge, Raman Kumar, who is a bird ecologist, compares the marten’s elegant movement to a sine wave. He has often observed the marten during his fieldwork, studying the endangered great slaty woodpecker in the sal forests of Uttarakhand. “Once, a yellow-throated marten raided an active nest that we were observing and ate at least two almost-fledged chicks.” The marten’s invasion was a rough break for the study, but such is the nature of scientific study: one can merely observe.
Kumar recalls seeing the martens in pairs, or singles, by the side of the road, while he was driving through forested areas. “They are swift and fluid, very graceful in movement. The yellow fur on the throat and belly is striking when it catches your eye.”
Yellow-throated martens are fierce predators. These weasel-like creatures inhabit forested and semi-forested areas in the foothills and middle Himalayas. They are also found northwest of India from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in numerous parts of China, throughout mainland Southeast Asia, on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo, and in the region from Korea to the Russian far east.
Despite their relative commonality in the upper reaches of India, there is scant research on this feisty little carnivore. Here’s what we do know.