My name is Hugh Morris and I am a trainee field guide from NJ More Field Guide College. During my time at Madikwe Safari Lodge, I have been lucky enough to see many different creatures. One of my favourite families of smaller animals that can be found here is that of the mongooses.
Some Quick Introductory Facts:
- Mongooses look very similar to weasels and descend from an ancient cat-like ancestor that lived about 30 million years ago
- They are terrestrial (live on the ground), insectivorous (mainly eat insects), and diurnal (active during the daytime)
- Many species of mongooses have anal scent glands, which they use to mark their territories and communicate with each other regarding reproduction
- Mongooses are well known for being snake-eaters and have acetylcholine receptors that block the effects of neurotoxic venom, like that of cobras
- Some mongooses live and hunt by themselves, but there are others that live in groups and share their food with each other
The Slender Mongoose
The slender mongoose – easily identified by the black tip of their tail – is a solitary and territorial species. They are also highly adaptable, and can be found everywhere from the forest to the bush throughout sub-Saharan Africa. I have spotted them in Madikwe often dashing across the road, so it can be very difficult to get a good look at them.
The Yellow Mongoose
The yellow mongoose is less shy because it is a social species, but will be seen foraging alone. They live in pairs or colonies in burrows, which can also be occupied by ground squirrels, and will bring food back to their den if they have young. They are not a common sight, and so far I have only managed to identify this animal once – thankfully had time to snap a photo!
The Dwarf Mongoose
Dwarf mongooses are probably my favourite of all around the reserve. They live in large colonies inside abandoned termite mounds, where they are led by a dominant male and female breeding pair. The female will dictate the colony’s daily routine. If she is to be succeeded, the next females in line will determine by which one among them with a (sometimes very long) grooming contest.
The Banded Mongoose
The banded mongooses can often be seen racing along in large groups. Unlike dwarf mongooses, there can be several females and males breeding together, and instead of having sentinels – which keep a lookout for predators – they simply rely on strength in numbers. They particularly enjoy eating birds’ eggs, and it’s very entertaining to watch them cracking them open by throwing them between their legs at a hard surface.
Words and photos by: Hugh Morris