Mongooses are small mammals that belong to the family Herpestidae. They are found mainly in Africa, but can also be found in Asia and southern Europe. There are at 34 species of mongoose which are found in two genera. There are also some extinct species of mongoose.
Mongooses belong to the family Herpestidae, which is split into two subfamilies, the Herpestinae and the Mungotinae. The Herpestinae comprises 23 living species that are native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, whereas the Mungotinae comprises 11 species native to Africa. We can see these in more detail below.
• Egyptian mongoose (H. ichneumon)
• Common slender mongoose (H. sanguineus)
• Cape gray mongoose (H. pulverulentus)
• Somalian slender mongoose (H. ochraceus)
• Angolan slender mongoose (H. flavescens)
• Marsh mongoose (A. paludinosus)
• Yellow mongoose (C. penicillata)
• Indian grey mongoose (U. edwardsii)
• Javan mongoose (U. javanica)
• Stripe-necked mongoose (U. vitticolla)
• Small Indian mongoose (U. auropunctata)
• Crab-eating mongoose (U. urva)
• Ruddy mongoose (U. smithii)
• Short-tailed mongoose (U. brachyura)
• Indian brown mongoose (U. fusca)
• Collared mongoose (U. semitorquata)
• White-tailed mongoose (I. albicauda)
• Bushy-tailed mongoose (B. crassicauda)
• Black-footed mongoose (B. nigripes)
• Jackson’s mongoose (B. jacksoni)
• Sokoke dog mongoose (B. omnivora)
• Meller’s mongoose (R. melleri)
• Selous’s mongoose (P. selousi)
• Long-nosed mongoose (X. naso)
• Banded mongoose (M. mungo)
• Gambian mongoose (M. gambianus)
• Meerkat (S. suricatta)
• Common kusimanse (C. obscurus)
• Alexander’s kusimanse (C. alexandri)
• Angolan kusimanse (C. ansorgei)
• Flat-headed kusimanse (C. platycephalus)
• Common dwarf mongoose (H. parvula)
• Ethiopian dwarf mongoose (H. hirtula)
• Pousargues’s mongoose (D. dybowskii)
• Liberian mongoose (L. kuhni)
Mongooses are small animals ranging in size from 24 to 58 cm (9.4 to 22.8 in) in head-to-body length, excluding the tail, and weighing between 320 g (11 oz) to 5 kg (11 lb). They have long faces and bodies, small, rounded ears, short legs, and long, tapering tails. Colorwise, most of them are brown or grey and brindled or grizzly, although a few have distinctly marked coats. A very few species have banded tails.
Mongooses do not have retractable claws but do have sharp teeth. Most species have a large anal scent gland, used for territorial marking and signaling reproductive status.
Mongooses can live up to ten years in the wild.
Most mongooses are predators and feed on a wide range of animals. These include small mammals and birds, reptiles, insects and crabs. Some species also eat tubers, fruits and berries, eggs and carrion.
These animals are notable for their attacks on highly venomous snakes such as king cobras. They are successful hunters because they are fast and agile, and are able to crack a snake’s skull with one bite. While they are bitten by the snakes occasionally, mongooses possess a glycoprotein that binds to proteins in snake venom, deactivating them and making them harmless. They have a keen sense of smell, sight and hearing which helps them with hunting these animals, too.
Mongooses are also noted for the way in which they can open eggs and other food items with hard shells, such as crabs, mollusks, and nuts. They stand on their hind legs and hit the egg against the ground. They also carry the egg to a rock standing with their back to the rock, throws the egg between their legs and against the rock until the shell is broken.
Most species of mongoose are active during the day and are terrestrial, although some species are aquatic. They mostly live alone or in pairs, but a few species, such as meerkats, live in large groups.
They chatter incessantly to each other with a humane-like speech. They also sound alarm calls when they spot predators. During mating season, they produce high-pitched giggling sounds to inform potential partners they are ready to mate.
Females mongooses usually produce just one litter each year, but are capable of producing another litter if the first litter is lost. Baby mongooses are called pups and a group of offspring is called a litter. Litters usually consist of two to four young.
Pup mongooses are weaned at around 6 weeks old. They then forage with their mothers until they are about 4 months old. Male mongoose young leave their mothers when they are about 6 months old, but female mongoose young stay with their mother longer, sometimes permanently.
Mongoose Location and Habitat
Mongooses are found mainly in Africa but also in southern Asia and southern Europe. They have a wide variety of habitats, ranging from desert to tropical forest. They usually make complex burrowing systems to live in.
Mongoose Conservation Status
Unfortunately, most mongoose species are threatened. The biggest threats to these animals are habitat loss, pesticides and pollution. Some species are also sold in the pet trade.