Many from childhood know the real hero mongoose named Riki-Tiki-Tavi, who bravely fought with a cobra. The beloved cartoon, based on the work of Rudyard Kipling, made the mongoose in our eyes a clever daredevil who deserves honor and respect. In fact, this small predator is quite agile and active. His pretty appearance is perfectly combined with courage and indefatigability. And it is not for nothing that he has a purposeful feline look, because he belongs to the suborder of felines.

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Photo: Mongoose

Photo: Mongoose

Mongooses are mammalian predatory animals belonging to the mongoose family.

Previously, they were mistakenly included in the viverrid family, from which, as it turned out, they differ in various ways:

  • Mongooses have claws that do not retract like viverrids;
  • Some varieties of mongooses lead a collective lifestyle, which is unacceptable for a viverrid family;
  • Mongooses do not have a membrane between the fingers;
  • Mongooses prefer terrestrial living, unlike arboreal viverrids;
  • The greatest activity in mongooses can be seen in the daytime, which is not typical of viverrids;
  • The odorous secret in mongooses is secreted by the anal glands, and in viverrids – by the prianal glands.

Scientists believe that mongooses are quite ancient predators that appeared about 65 million years ago during the Paleocene period. In their appearance, they are more like mustelids, namely, ferrets. Their large family is represented by 35 species and 17 genera. All of them differ, both in the territories of their permanent residence, and in some external characteristics. Let's name and characterize some of the varieties.

Video: Mongoose

The white-tailed mongoose can be called the largest, whose body has a length of about 60 cm. It lives on the African continent south of the Sahara. Meeting and seeing him is not an easy task, because he is active at dusk.

The dwarf mongoose lives up to its name, because it is the smallest of the mongoose family. Its length is only 17 cm. The baby inhabits Ethiopia, reaching its habitat to southern Africa, and to the west – to Cameroon, Angola and Namibia.

The ring-tailed mungo, the conqueror of trees, has chosen the tropics of the island of Madagascar. His reddish fluffy tail is really ringed along the entire length with black stripes. This species is not a loner, but prefers to form family unions, living in pairs or not very numerous family groups.

Water mongooses have a permanent residence in the Gambia, where they live near the water element, often preferring wetlands. These mongooses have a solid black color.

Meerkats live in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola. These predators live, forming entire colonies, like ordinary ground squirrels, which is very unusual for a detachment of predatory animals.

The common mongoose is a loner by nature. It is widely distributed throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

The Indian mongoose lives, naturally, in India, on about. Sri Lanka. Most likely, it was he who was described in Kipling's famous story, because poisonous snakes are his constant prey.

Of course, not all varieties of mongoose are mentioned here, because there are a huge number of them. In addition to significant and minor differences, they also have many similar features that should be discussed separately.

Appearance and features

Photo: Mongoose Animal

Photo: Mongoose Animal

As already mentioned, mongooses look similar to mustelids. For predators, they are quite small. In various species, their weight varies from 280 grams to 5 kg, and the size of the body is from 17 to 75 cm. The tail of all species is quite long and cone-shaped. The head is small, neat, on it are small rounded ears. The muzzle is elongated and pointed. The teeth of various species range from 32 to 40 pieces, they are small, but very strong and sharp, like needles piercing the skin of a snake.

The body of mongooses is elongated and graceful, they do not hold flexibility. In addition to all these qualities, mongooses are also very strong, and their swift jumps when thrown simply discourage the victim. The sharp claws on the five-fingered paws of mongooses lack the ability to hide, but they are very helpful in fights with the enemy. The mongoose also uses them to dig long holes.

The coat of mongooses is thick and coarse, this protects them from the bites of poisonous snakes. Depending on the subspecies and habitat, the length of the coat may be different.

The color of the fur coat is also varied, it can be:

  • Gray;
  • Black ;
  • Brown;
  • Light gray with red;
  • Red;
  • Tawny;
  • Dark chocolate;
  • Beige;
  • Striped;
  • Solid.

You should not be surprised at the wide variety of wool colors among mongooses, because these animals also have a considerable number of varieties.

Where do mongooses live?

Photo: Mongoose in nature

Photo: Mongoose in nature

The mongoose family is widespread throughout the African continent, and they also live in many regions of Asia. And the Egyptian mongoose is found not only in Asia, but also in southern Europe. People artificially brought this mongoose to the territory of the New World.

Very interesting is the fact that mongooses were brought to about. Fiji to fight the rat infestation and harass poisonous snakes, but this venture failed. The mongooses not only did not destroy the rats, but began to pose a threat to some local animals.

For example, the number of iguanas and small birds has been greatly reduced due to their hunting. The whole thing is explained by the fact that this species of mongoose leads a daytime lifestyle, and rats are active at dusk, and therefore the insidious plan to exterminate rodents did not materialize. Man brought mongooses to the West Indies, to the Hawaiian Islands, to the American continent, where they settled remarkably. There is a variety of mongoose that lives on about. Madagascar.

As you can see, the mongoose habitat is quite extensive, they have perfectly adapted to various conditions.

These small predators live in the territories:

  • Savannah ;
  • Jungle;
  • Mountains covered with forests;
  • Green meadows;
  • Deserts and semi-deserts;
  • Cities;
  • Coasts.

Surprisingly, many mongooses do not avoid human dwellings at all, equipping their lairs in sewers and ditches of cities. Many of them live in rock crevices, hollows, take a fancy to rotten trees, settle down between large roots. For the water mongoose, the presence of a reservoir is an indispensable condition for life, so it settles near swamps, lakes, estuaries, rivers.

Some mongooses live in abandoned animal burrows, while others dig whole ornate underground corridors with many forks.

Species living in the open African savannas use the ventilation shafts of massive termite mounds for housing . Basically, these animals prefer life on the ground, although some of them (African slender mongoose and ring-tailed) lead an arboreal lifestyle. Some species of mongoose live permanently in a certain territory, while others are nomadic. The latter find a new lair every two days.

What do mongooses eat?

Photo: Little Mongoose

Photo: Little Mongoose

Almost always, each mongoose earns his own food himself. Only sometimes do they team up together to deal with larger prey, a tactic mostly used by pygmy mongooses. Generally speaking, we can say that mongooses are unpretentious in food. Their menu for the most part consists of all kinds of insects. They love to feast on small animals and birds, they also eat plant foods, do not disdain carrion.

The mongoose menu consists of:

  • Various insects;
  • Small rodents;
  • Small-sized mammals;
  • Small birds;
  • Amphibians and reptiles;
  • Bird, turtle and even crocodile eggs;
  • All kinds of fruits, leaves, roots, tubers;
  • Carrion.

In addition to all of the above, the water mongoose eats small fish, crabs, crustaceans, frogs. They look for their lunch in shallow water, in streams, taking out delicious food from the mud and water with their sharp clawed paws. The water mongoose is always not averse to tasting crocodile eggs, if there is such an opportunity. There is a separate species of crabeater mongoose that feeds mainly on various crustaceans.

Other species of mongoose also always keep their clawed feet ready when they go in search of food. Having heard or smelled the prey, they can immediately dig it out of the ground, thus getting rodents, bugs, spiders and their larvae. Such a variety of dishes is present in the diet of these little predators.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Mongoose

Photo: Mongoose

The habits, habits and disposition of mongooses living in the wild depend on the social structure they adhere to. Because they belong to predatory animals, then many varieties of mongoose live separately, one at a time. Here, for example, we can name the Egyptian mongoose, the female of which has its own territory and makes sure that no one encroaches on it.

Male individuals of the same species have allotments of a much larger area than females. Outside the mating season, females and males practically do not see each other, the mother alone brings up her offspring. Solitary individuals are characterized by a nocturnal mode of existence.

Some species of mongoose lead a collective lifestyle, living in whole family groups. This is what dwarf mongooses do, it helps them survive in difficult conditions, because they are very small and very vulnerable. The number of their group can reach up to 20 individuals, although there are usually about 9. The leader of this entire mongoose gang is a sexually mature female. in Kenya, with a hornbill. Mongooses and birds go hunting together, birds catch flying insects frightened off by mongooses and at the same time protect baby mongooses from danger, watching from a height.

Seeing a threat, the hornbill signals this with a cry and predators immediately hide. Thus, this bird protects mongooses even from predatory birds, and mongooses, in turn, share their preyed insects with hornbills. This is such an unusual business partnership.

Banded mongooses and meerkats are also social animals. In their flock, there can be up to 40 mongoose representatives. When they go hunting or just relaxing, one mongoose is always on guard, looking around with a keen eye. In addition to searching for food, mongooses can be caught playing fun games that imitate fights and exciting chases.

You can see mongooses combing each other's hair. In a strong heat, the animals bask not far from their holes, while one of them stands on guard, ready at any second to warn of danger with a cry. The sounds made by mongooses are quite diverse. They can growl, squeal and cackle, the alarm signal is similar to the barking of a dog.

So, mongooses living in a community prefer daytime activity. Often they can occupy other people's holes, taking them away from earthen squirrels, and if they dig their own, they do it with soul, building entire labyrinths of corridors underground. Not all types of mongooses are ready to fight fiercely for their territorial allotment, many serenely and peacefully coexist with other animals. Yet, by nature, these animals are nimble, lively, dodgy and brave enough.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Mongoose Predator

Photo: Predator mongoose

The mating season for different species of mongoose falls at different times. In addition, little is known about this period in single animals, research continues to this day. Zoologists have found out that the female gives birth to 2 – 3 cubs, which are blind and do not have a coat.

Births usually occur in a hole or in a rock crevice. Two weeks after the birth, the babies begin to see, all the hardships and worries about their existence fall solely on the mother's shoulders, the male leaves immediately after mating.

In collective mongooses, the mating season is the most studied and well researched. In almost all varieties, the duration of pregnancy is about 2 months, the only exceptions are the narrow-banded mongoose (105 days) and Indian (42 days). Usually 2 – 3 babies are born, sometimes there are more (up to 6 pieces). Their body weight is about 20 g. The cubs can feed not only from their mother, but also from other females of the flock.

The sexual behavior of dwarf mongooses has its own characteristics. As already mentioned, the flock is controlled by a sexually mature female, and her sexual partner is the deputy. According to the laws of their community, only they can reproduce, suppressing the natural instincts of the rest. Because of this, some dissenting males leave the pack, adjoining those communities where they can acquire offspring.

Usually, in socially living mongooses, males perform the role of nannies, while mothers look for food at this time. Males drag the kids by the scruff of the neck to a more secluded place if they see danger. Adults begin to give ordinary food to the grown offspring, then they take them with them to hunt, instilling in them the skills of obtaining food. Young growth becomes sexually mature closer to the age of one.

Natural enemies of mongooses

Photo: Mongoose Animal

Photo: Mongoose Animal

It is not easy for mongooses in the wild and harsh nature. Of course, they are predators, but their size is very small in order to feel completely safe. That is why single mongooses begin their hunt only at dusk, and collective individuals always have a sentry. It is especially difficult for dwarf mongooses in this regard, it is good that they have such a useful ally as a hornbill that warns of danger from above.

Among the natural enemies of mongooses are leopards, caracals, servals, jackals, large poisonous snakes. From them, the mongoose can save his swiftness, dexterity, resourcefulness, high speed when running. Hiding from the chase, mongooses often use intricate and advantageous routes for them. The small size allows the mongooses to escape the sight of large animals, which saves their lives.

Most often, inexperienced young animals or small cubs that do not have time to slip into the hole come across in the mouth of predators. And with predatory and large birds, things are much worse, it’s hard for a mongoose to hide from them, because from above the birds can see much more than a small animal. The attack of birds can also be lightning fast and unexpected, so many mongooses die under their sharp and powerful claws.

As for snakes, some species of mongoose fight them desperately and successfully, because it was not for nothing that they became the heroes of Kipling's story. For example, the Indian mongoose is capable of killing a spectacled cobra reaching a length of two meters. If the snake does bite the mongoose, it may well avoid death by eating a healing root called “mangusweil” that neutralizes the snake's venom, saving the mongoose from death.

It is worth noting that the mongoose does not always flee, sometimes he has to fight with the ill-wisher, showing his courage and fighting spirit. Mongooses bristle, arch their backs, make growling and barking sounds, raise their long tail with a pipe, bite hard and shoot a fetid secret from their anal glands. These little daredevils have such a solid arsenal of protective properties in their piggy bank.

Population and species status

Photo: Animal Mongoose

Photo: Animal Mongoose

Some states have introduced a ban on the import of mongooses into their territory, because there are many cases when they were brought to fight rodents, and they began to multiply intensively and destroy the local flora and fauna. In addition to all this, they also began to hunt domestic poultry.

If you look at the situation from a different angle, you can see that many varieties of mongoose have significantly reduced the number of their population, and there are very few of them left. All this is due to human intervention and the development of the lands where these animals live.

Deforestation and plowing of land for crops greatly affect the livelihoods of all animals, including mongooses. The animals are hunted for their rich and fluffy tails.

The most vulnerable are the mongooses that live on about. Madagascar, their numbers have declined significantly. Javanese yellow mongooses and meerkats were killed in large numbers, but they are still numerous. A couple of South African species and meerkats were persecuted and destroyed, because. considered them to be carriers of rabies. All these human actions force mongooses to wander and look for new places suitable for habitation and successful existence. And the life expectancy of a mongoose in the wild is about eight years.

It remains to be added that there is no species balance among mongooses: the number of some species is extremely small, while others have bred so extensively that they themselves are a threat to some local inhabitants.

In conclusion, I would like to note that the courage, maneuverability and swiftness of the mongooses have earned their fame. In their honor, not only the famous Kipling story was written, but also in 2000, our military named the 12150 Mongoose series high-speed boats, and the Italian military began production of attack helicopters in 2007, called Agusta A129 Mongoose. Here is such a miniature, but very lively, hardy, tireless and predatory animal – a handsome mongoose!

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