Head-tail: 120 - 170 mm (golden moles)
Weight: 85 - 142 g (golden moles)
Although not closely related, golden moles resemble true mole in appearance. They have a compact, streamlined body and a shiny coat of dense golden fur. Marley’s golden mole is well adapted to life underground. Its short powerful forelimbs possess pick-like claws and it has a smooth leathery pad on the end of its nose, which is used to push through the soil. Its nostrils are protected under a fold of skin at the front of its long snout and the eyes, which are not used, are covered with a layer of skin. The ears are small and hidden in the fur.
Golden moles spend most of their lives underground. They use sound rather than sight to locate their prey, which consists primarily of insect larvae and earthworms. Golden moles reach these creatures by pushing through the sandy soil just below the ground. They use the upward thrust of their wedge-shaped heads, together with powerful down thrusts of the foreclaws, to tunnel through the soil, creating raised ridges of soil that are visible above ground. They create two types of burrow system: tunnels close to the surface that are used for foraging and deeper tunnels that are used for resting and raising young. Adults are thought to be solitary, nocturnal and like other species of golden mole, are probably territorial.
Occurs in moist grasslands and indigenous forests in the Natal Lowveld Bushveld and Lebombo Arid-Mountain Bushveld. This species also occurs in gardens.
Classified as Endangered (EN B1ab(iii,iv)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threatened primarily by habitat degradation resulting from overgrazing by cattle, the collection of firewood by local subsistence communities and urbanisation (in the Ubombo district). Predation by domestic pets, and possible pesticide contamination in areas adjoining agricultural estates, are more localised threats.
Although Marley’s golden mole occurs in the protected Pongola Wilderness Area, there are currently no targeted conservation measures in place for this species.
Further research into the distribution and threats facing this species is needed so that appropriate conservation action can be taken. In particular, efforts should be made to verify evidence additional populations may occur along the Lebombo Mountains into southeastern Swaziland.