Mustela nudipesMalayan weasel

Geographic Range

Malayan weasels inhabit only the Sundaic sub-region of Southeast Asia. The historical distribution extended through Borneo, Sumatra and the Malaysia-Thailand peninsula. Today its geographic range extends across Brunei, Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo), Malaysia and Thailand, ranging north in the Thailand peninsula to 10 degrees north. (Abramov, 2000; Duckworth, et al., 2006)


Although there is little information available about the habitat preference of Malayan weasels, they are presumed to live in similar habitats as other weasels. This species has been found in both forested and deforested areas near urban areas. (Duckworth, et al., 2006; Giordano and Brodie, 2012)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1700 m
    0.00 to 5577.43 ft

Physical Description

Malayan weasels have a body length of 30 to 36 cm with a tail length of 24 to 26 cm. Fur color ranges from orange-brown to gray-white. The tip of its tail is yellow-white, and the head is a much lighter color (often white) than the rest of its body. There is no fur around the pads on the soles of the feet. Sexual dimorphism in Malayan weasels is not reported but, in other Mustela species, males are often larger than females. Two subspecies of Mustela nudipes are recognized: Mustela nudipes nudipes and Mustela nudipes leucocephalus. (Brongersma and Junge, 1942; Giordano and Brodie, 2012)

  • Range length
    30 to 36 cm
    11.81 to 14.17 in


Mating systems of Malayan weasels have not been studied. However, other Mustela species are typically polygynous, with males competing for access to females. (Duckworth, et al., 2006)

Specific reproduction and breeding behaviors of Malayan weasels have not been studied. However, they produce a litter of four each breeding season.

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding intervals in Malayan weasels have not been reported.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding seasonality of Malayan weasels has not been reported.
  • Average number of offspring

Specific parental care investment patterns of the Malayan weasel have not been studied. However, as in other Mustela species, females typically care for their young without male involvement.

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Lifespans of Malayan weasels have not been studied. They are thought to live between 3 and 10 years based on similar-sized mustelids. (Koepfli, et al., 2008)


Malayan weasels are shy members of the Mustelidae family. They tend to be solitary, but have been sighted in pairs. They are primarily terrestrial, but have also been observed swimming. Their movement is quiet and subtle; they favor a silent zig-zagging running pattern. While foraging, they run on the ground and jump into logs in search of food. (Duckworth, et al., 2006; Giordano and Brodie, 2012)

Home Range

The home range sizes of Malayan weasels has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

Specific communication patterns of Malayan weasels have not been studied. However, forms of communication among other weasels consist of vocalizations, including trills, squeals, screeches, or purrs during mating seasons or warning signals. Weasels use musk glands to mark territories or hunting areas. Visual, sound, scent and tactile communication is used to warn others and to communicate before mating. (Koepfli, et al., 2008)

Food Habits

Malayan weasels are carnivorous. They hunt and forage for food by searching on logs, boulders, burrows, and holes. They eat a wide variety of small rodents, along with occasional small birds, lizards, or insects. (Duckworth, et al., 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods


Pythons are the only documented predators of Malayan weasels, although they are occasionally hunted by humans for food. Malayan weasels use warning calls and screeches to communicate and warn each other that predators are near. (Duckworth, et al., 2006; Koepfli, et al., 2008)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic
  • Known Predators

Ecosystem Roles

Malayan weasels help to control populations of small rodents through predation. (Duckworth, et al., 2006; Koepfli, et al., 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Malayan weasels are used for medicinal purposes, hunted for their skin for hats, food, and trophies. They are welcomed in some rural areas because they prey on rodent pests. (Duckworth, et al., 2006)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Malayan weasels are described as pests sometimes because they may take small livestock, such as chickens. (Brongersma and Junge, 1942; Duckworth, et al., 2006)

Conservation Status

Malayan weasels are listed as a species of least concern according to the IUCN Red List. However, they are protected in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, and Sabah. Population sizes are slowly decreasing, presumably due to hunting and killing by humans. ("The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2013; Duckworth, et al., 2006)

Other Comments

Some cultures believe that burning their fur will eliminate ghosts and evil spirits. (Duckworth, et al., 2006)


Jodie Kohlmann (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Shaina Stewart (editor), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.



uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


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


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


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

World Map


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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


uses sight to communicate


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


2013. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Mustela nudipes. Accessed August 21, 2013 at

Abramov, A. 2000. A taxonomic review of the genus Mustela (Mammalia, Carnivora). Zoosystematica Rossica, 8/2: 361.

Brongersma, D., D. Junge. 1942. On the Variation of Mustela (Lutreola) nudipes Desm.. Zoologische Mededelingen, 23/9: 149-170.

Duckworth, J., B. Lee, E. Meijaard, S. Meiri. 2006. The Malay Weasel (Mustela nudipes): distribution, natural history and a global conservation status review. Small Carnivore Conservion, 34/35: 2-21.

Giordano, A., J. Brodie. 2012. An observation of Malay Weasel (Mustela nudipes) in Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak, Malaysia) with a comment on discriminating this species from sympatric orange mongooses Herpestes. Small Carnivore Conservation, 47: 71-72.

Koepfli, K., K. Deere, G. Slater, C. Begg, K. Begg, L. Grassman, M. Lucherini, G. Veron, R. Wayne. 2008. Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation. BMC Biology, 6/10: 1-22.