Whether you favour mongooses, or (rather controversially) mongeese, I think most would agree that this picture of the aforementioned taken by Marco, one of our guides in Tanzania, in the Serengeti, is a worthy winner of the Guides’ Monthly Image competition. Congratulations Marco – we love it and were particularly taken by the way you captured them all huddled together looking so alert.
Mongoose are a common sight across Africa but can also be found in Europe and Asia with some 33 species. They live in burrows, usually ones that have been abandoned, preferring a rocky landscape but are highly adaptable and feed on small birds, insects, worms and reptiles. Some species of mongoose are known for their ability to take on venomous snakes – this was famously described by Rudyard Kipling in the Jungle Book with fictional character Rikki Tikki Tavi.They have very sharp claws which are non-retractable, are fast and agile, and have some degree of protection from some snake venoms due to the shape of acetylcholine receptors (neurotransmitters in the nervous system).
Mongooses live for around 4 years in the wild. The female has one litter a year of around 4 babies, who are born blind. Most have brown or grey fur but the banded Mongoose has black stripes on its lower back and is easy to spot. They are ingenious little creatures and interesting to observe, breaking open eggs by throwing them against a rock or bashing them with a stone. They are always highly alert, as pictured, setting off ‘an alarm’ if spotting a threat approaching.
In some countries, such as Hawaii, they are considered a pest. Initially introduced to control vermin, the mongooses ended up decimating the native bird population. Most species of mongoose are now banned from being imported into the States and also to Australia.
Thanks again Marco – it is easy to be distracted by the Big Five and all the other wonderful large mammals in Africa, and as a result many of the smaller ones get overlooked. It is good to know that our guides are on the look out for all the birds and smaller creatures that make up Africa’s supporting cast as well as keeping their eyes peeled for those in leading roles.
Find out more about Marco here.