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.

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