Tag Archives: mongoose

Dinner time in the park

Africa is not called the ‘Dark Continent’ for nothing.  Life is cheap in Africa and nowhere is that more evident than in a game reserve.  Spend a couple of days driving through any one of our reserves and you will see death at every turn.  It may be a bird eating a lizard or a mouse, a snake eating a bird or something much larger like a cheetah eating a buck.  Death stalks almost every animal and very few are privileged to live without predators.  You’d think that it would mainly be the smaller birds and animals that are at risk, but we found that even the enormous elephant is vulnerable and part of the food chain.  On an early morning game drive in Chobe, Botswana, we came across a fresh carcass of a young elephant that had been attacked by lions during the night.

Breakfast time in Chobe

Elephants aren’t normally killed by lions as there are animals that are much easier for them to prey upon.  However, we saw no less than three elephant carcasses in the space of about three days in Chobe recently, which showed that perhaps there is a new trend happening with the lions there. These kills certainly provide food for many different animals besides the lions.  Apart from the jackals, hyenas and vultures that normally feast on carcasses, we also noticed a Tawny eagle protecting his piece of the action.

Tawny eagle joins the feast

Even a little mongoose came along to see what was in it for him.

Mongoose at elephant carcass

There is seldom a dull moment in Chobe and you have to keep your camera at the ready all the time.  Tawny eagles are well worth keeping an eye on.  We saw this one swoop down and catch a francolin, which it took up into a tree.  Once it started eating, the feathers were literally raining down.

Tawny eagle catches a francolin

The raptors are always hungry.  African fish eagles are ever-present and one can usually find one or two eating a fish.

African fish eagle with a catch

We were surprised to see that even the Yellow-billed kite is not averse to fishing.  This one (not photographed in Chobe, but at Kalizo Lodge) was an excellent fisherman as he perched above our tent every day with a fresh fish.

Yellow-billed kite with a fish

I think he fared better than many of the local anglers at the campsite.


The Heroic Mongoose

“He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink; he could scratch himself anywhere he pleased, with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use; he could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle-brush, and his war-cry, as he scuttled through the long grass, was: ‘Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!'”

Congratulations if you recognized that quote from the short story in “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, a description of the heroic Rikki-Tikki-Tavi that leads a short while later to the graphic description of the little mongoose’s fight-to-the-death with Nag, the cobra. No prizes for knowing who won! Written well over a hundred years ago, the Jungle Book remains an absolute classic.

The story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is, of course, set in India, but Namibia too has an abundance of mongooses.

We are always interested to see which of our blogs attract the largest number of hits, and one of the most searched items is the humble mongoose!  This is quite surprising as a mongoose is not a  particularly exciting animal to look at, but obviously it generates a lot of interest on the Internet.

These little mammals are quite common in Namibia and we even see them in the grounds of our townhouse complex on the outskirts of Windhoek.  The most common variety in this area is the yellow mongoose, easily distinguished by its light yellowish coloured coat and the white tip on its tail.  They are very shy animals and will scurry away quickly, or duck into whatever shelter is closest, as one approaches   We often see them in pairs when we go on our walks to the nearby Avis Dam.

Yellow Mongoose

Further north at Etosha, in the Caprivi region and on the eastern border of Namibia the banded mongoose is more common, very similar in looks to the slender mongoose, except that it has a number of stripes on its back.

Banded Mongoose

This creature, unlike its cousin the yellow mongoose, prefers woodland and riverine forest as its habitat.  It also breeds during the summer months and has between two and eight young.   The gestation period for all breeds of mongoose is approximately eight weeks.  Their diet consists of lizards, beetles, termites, birds eggs, mice and fruit.

Eggs present no real challenge.and the mongoose will often pick up the egg in its front paws and then slam it  onto a rock or onto the ground to break it open.

Eggs are part of their diet

Eggs are part of their diet

At the Harness Wildlife Foundation we were amused to see dozens of slender mongooses follow the voluntary helpers around at feeding time – it looked like a scene out of  the Pied Piper of Hamelin!

Slender Mongooses at Harness

They are extremely sociable animals and live in groups of twenty or more.

Yellow Mongoose

We unfortunately don’t have photographs of yet another variety of mongoose found in Namibia, namely the black mongoose, due to it’s elusiveness and rarity.  The black mongoose is endemic to Namibia and is found mainly in the Erongo mountains.  Not much is known about this species so a number of scientists are conducting studies on the black mongoose at the moment.  We have seen them on three different occasions, which makes us feel extremely priviliged.

2009 – The year of the snake

No, this isn’t about the Chinese Year of the Snake, but about an amazing year that we’ve had as far as snake sightings are concerned.  Yesterday morning while we were walking back from the Avis Dam, just three kilometers from our home, we came upon a Cape Cobra on the path in front of us, a path that is traversed by any number of people on a sunny Sunday morning.  The cobra must have heard us coming as it was reared up and its hood was flared when we saw it. We stopped and drew back quickly, but we needn’t have worried because the snake lowered itself from its aggressive stance and took off into the grass.  Stepping forward to see where it had disappeared to, we saw a yellow mongoose poised just a few metres away, very close to where the snake had been. Could it have been the mongoose that chased the cobra onto the rather busy path?

Yellow mongoose Yellow mongoose

An encounter between a mongoose and a cobra would have been something interesting to witness.

Earlier in the year, on a trip to the Kagalagadi Transfrontier Park we saw several cobras and puff adders at fairly close quarters, usually in the road as they are almost invisible in even fairly short grass.

Cape cobra at Kgalagadi Cape cobra at Kgalagadi

Puff adder at Kgalagadi Puff adder at Kgalagadi

Cape cobra at Kgalagadi

In Botswana during April and May we again saw a number of cobras and puffadders. At Grasslands we saw a complete sloughed snake skin that looked as though it had been discarded by a puff adder. It was interesting to see that this skin had even covered the snake’s eyes.

Sloughed snake skin

At Mankwe we witnessed a puff adder struggling sluggishly to reach the bank of a dam – which it did.

Puff adder at Mankwe

And in Maun, at the Island Safari Camp a co-camper chased a fair sized puff adder out from under the tent in which his wife was having her afternoon nap. It was fascinating to watch the reaction of the birds and squirrels to the presence of this puff adder. The birds set up a raucous cacophony and flew in to mob the snake and the squirrels approached very closely, albeit very carefully, and grew very excited. They all kept this up until the snake had slithered well away from the campsite.

Puff adder at Maun

Puff adder at Maun

Just look at the magnificent dragon pattern on the head of the puff adder!