Hog badger (Arctonyx collaris)
|Size||Head-body length: 55 - 70 cm (2)|
Tail length: 12 - 17 cm (2)
|Weight||7 - 14 kg (2)|
The hog badger is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
The world’s largest extant badger (3), the hog badger (Arctonyx collaris) is aptly named for its unusual pig-like snout (4). The fur on the body of the hog badger is generally dark brown in colour but the exact shade varies between individuals and may sometimes have a yellow or grey tint (5). In contrast, the head is yellow-white, as is the thick tail (2), and two distinctive dark stripes run from the snout, past the eyes, to the back of the head (2). The throat, ears and tail are white, the belly is black, and the short, black legs bear long, white claws (2).
The hog badger has an extensive range, being found throughout Southeast Asia, from north-eastern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Vietnam, east to southern China, and south to Sumatra (3) (5). It may also occur in Malaysia, although its presence there is not yet certain (1).
A terrestrial mammal, the hog badger inhabits forested areas (5). It prefers hills to lowlands (5), although it has been sighted at a variety of altitudes, from 200 to 3,500 metres (3) (6).
The hog badger is nocturnal (7), spending the daytime sheltering in burrows which may either be natural structures, such as rock crevices, or excavated by the badger using the long claws on its forelimbs (7) (8).
An omnivorous species (9), the hog badger is believed to specialise in earthworms (7), but it also feeds on roots, tubers, insects and occasionally small vertebrates (6). It is thought to use its mobile snout to root in the undergrowth for its food, much like a pig (2), as well as using its claws to access sources of food buried deeper in the soil (10).
The hog badger is a fervently solitary creature (9) (11). Relatively little is known of its mating behaviour, although mating has been reported to take place in May in the wild (11), while in captivity it has been witnessed to occur from April to September (12). The exact length of the gestation period is unknown, although it has been suggested to last around six weeks (12). Many sources suggest that, as with many other species of the mustelid family, delayed implantation takes place; this is when the fertilised egg is not immediately implanted in the wall of the uterus, but is suspended in a state of dormancy for a time (13), allowing the young to be born in March or February when food is in abundant supply (12) (14) (15). The lifespan of the hog badger in the wild is unknown but in captivity it has lived for almost 14 years (16).
The distinctive black and white stripes on the face of the hog badger may be interpreted as aposematic (17) (18), meaning they may act to warn potential predators of the hog badger’s ability to release noxious odours from its anal scent glands, or its ferocity when threatened (8) (17). The hog badger is predated by the dhole (Cuon alpinus), tiger (Panthera tigris) and leopard (Panthera pardus) (18). It is likely that the secretions from the anal scent glands of hog badgers are also used to mark territory (19).
As a forest-dwelling animal, the major threat to the hog badger is the large-scale deforestation currently occurring in Southeast Asia (20) (21). In addition, it is hunted for food in some areas, but it appears that its palatability varies between regions; in the Hin Namno region of eastern Lao PDR, hog badger flesh is used as fish bait rather than eaten, whereas it is explicitly sought for food in the southern Attapu province of Lao PDR (22). It is reportedly unwary of humans and dogs and therefore makes an easy hunting target (7).
The hog badger is protected in India by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and is also protected by law in Thailand (1). Its range incorporates several protected areas, including the Vangai Reserved Forest in India (23), the Wolong Reserve in China (24) and the Kaeng Krachan (25) and Khao Yai National Parks of Thailand (26). Hopefully its presence in such areas my help prevent numbers of this unusual mammal from declining further.
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- Aposematic: the use of bright colouration to advertise that an organism is toxic or distasteful.
- Extant: still existing (not extinct).
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Glands: organs that make and secrete substances used by the body.
- Mustelid: belonging to a family of carnivores with short, stocky legs, an elongated body and long, sharp canine teeth. Includes otters, weasels, ferrets and badgers.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Omnivorous: feeding on both plants and animals.
- Tubers: in plants, thickened stems or roots that act as underground storage organs. Roots and shoots grow from growth buds, called ‘eyes’, on the surface of the tuber.
- Vertebrates: animals with a backbone.
IUCN Red List (October, 2010)
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- Duckworth, J.W., Salter, R.E. and Khounboline, K. (1999) Wildlife in Lao PDR: 1999 Status Report. IUCN, Vientiane.
- Ramakantha, V. (1993) A note on the hog-badger (Arctonyx sp.) in the wild and in captivity in Manipur. Zoos’ Print, 8(2): 6-7.
- Johnson, K.G., Wei, W., Reid, D. and Jinchu, H. (1993) Food habits of Asiatic leopards (Panthera pardus fusea) in Wolong Reserve, Sichuan, China. Journal of Mammalogy, 74(3): 646-650.
- Gale, G.A., Ngoprasert, D. and Lynam, A. (2007) Human disturbance affects habitat use and behaviour of Asiatic leopard (Panthera pardus) in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand. Oryx, 41(3): 343-351.
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