The Banded mongoose is a long, slim carnivore, widespread throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. It has distinctive dark bands running horizontally across its back, going from the base of its neck to the start of its tail. These bands enable the banded mongoose to be distinguished from the Common dwarf mongoose, which is smaller, occupies similar habitats to the Banded mongoose and has a social structure that is similar. Banded mongooses have a wiry coat that ranges in color from gray to gray-brown, while the tip of their tapered tail is black or a darker brown.
The Banded mongoose lives in sub-Saharan Africa as far north as Somalia and Sudan. Although it does occur in Gambia and Senegal, it is generally considered as rare in West Africa. It occupies a variety of habitats, including brush-land and grassland, but prefers wooded areas. It is not found in drier areas, such as semi-desert and desert habitats.
Habits and lifestyle
The Banded mongoose is gregarious and diurnal, living in packs with 10 to 20 members. Packs usually remain together in a group in the same area, but forage individually. They may hunt together to kill larger prey, such as sand snakes. Their home range can measure 0.8 to 4 sq km, and they prefer to use an old termite mound as a den. A pack’s social organization seems to be matriarchal. Packs care for their young and also look after invalids and elderly, for example, by warning them about danger, grooming them, and giving them access to food. These animals are somewhat nomadic and will not inhabit one particular sheltering area or den for long, usually no more than several days or weeks. At a preferred location they may remain a little longer, and often will return to a favorite shelter site or den to re-use it repeatedly.
troop, committee, delegation, mongeese, mongaggle
Diet and nutrition
The Banded mongoose seems to be mainly insectivorous, feeding mostly on invertebrates, including centipedes, insects, lizards, snakes and frogs. They also eat fruit, roots, eggs and small rodents.
Banded mongooses are polygynous. Several dominant males will typically mate with and guard the receptive females. These females have been observed, nonetheless, to escape their 'guards' and mate with subordinate males. This means they might also exhibit a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system, in which both males and females have multiple mates. Gestation is typically for two months and most females give birth to their pups on the same night. The litter sizes range from two to six, with pups being cared for by the group and permitted to suckle from any female that is lactating. During the first 4 weeks, pups are kept underground and are looked after by 1 - 3 adults. At 4 weeks old the pups are let out to go off on foraging trips, with each one accompanied by an 'escort' which helps them find food and protects them from danger. At the age of 3 months the young become nutritionally independent. Females reach maturity at about 9 to 10 months old, and males as soon as 4 months old.
There are no particular threats facing Banded mongooses at present.
The Banded mongoose has a wide distribution range, is generally common in suitable habitat, but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today remain stable.
Being insectivorous, these animals may affect insect populations in their range.
Fun facts for kids
- Banded mongoose dens are communal, usually consisting of a central sleeping area, or sometimes a few smaller chambers, and as many as nine different entrance holes.
- These animals sometimes eat ticks off warthogs. This shows a 'symbiotic relationship', as the mongoose and the warthog both get something out of this association: the warthog gets cleaned and the mongoose has something to eat.
- The word ‘mongoose’ is from the Marathi (Indian) ‘mangus’. The plural is not mongeese but mongooses, despite the British Scrabble Players Association proclaiming to the contrary.
- Banded mongooses were introduced in the 19th century to the Hawaiian and Caribbean islands to control snake and rat populations but instead caused the extinction of many bird species.
- Mongooses are very fast animals, and, in an encounter with a snake, they can dodge the snake’s strikes easily. When a mongoose hunts a snake, it uses a number of tricks, and when the snake eventually gets tired, it attacks and catches the snake by the back of the neck. The ability of the mongoose as a snake-killer has been highlighted in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the story by Rudyard Kipling, in which a mongoose saves its family from the cobra.