Banded Mongoose – The Bushveld Gangsters

28 August 2015, Friday

Banded Mongoose are small carnivorous mammals with a long body and tail. They have a large head for their size and small ears. Banded Mongoose have a series of dark, narrow stripes that run across the back from behind the shoulders to the base of the tail. These stripes or `Bands` are responsible for their common name. They have a long haired tailed that ends in a thin dark tip. Banded Mongoose can grow to a length of about about 60 cm and can weigh up to 1,5 Kg.

Banded Mongoose showing teeth

Banded Mongoose diet consists mainly of insects, they also enjoy a mix of fruit, spiders and a variety of small vertebrates. Banded Mongoose are quickly habituated to human presence and are often found stealing food from campsites and rubbish dumps. On a recent trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa our guests were relaxing in the bungalow with the doors open due to the extreme summer heat. We rushed to assist them after hearing screams of panic. To the guests and our surprise a pack of Banded Mongooses had entered the bungalow and were hastily searching the place for any available snacks that were within reach. There were about 20 of them inside and it took a long time to round them up and get then to leave.

Banded Mongoose in the room

They also enjoy eating eggs when they can be found. They are very clever animals and have a very unique way of breaking the eggs open. The mongoose will hold the egg in the forearms and throw it between the legs onto a hard object such as a rock. The egg will crack on the rock and the mongoose will enjoy the meal.
I was once given an orphaned Banded Mongoose to transport to a new home in Zimbabwe. The mongoose was only 3 months old but already had a huge appetite. He would sit on my shoulder and constantly cry for food, if he did not get any insects he would start to nibble on my ear. I would actually spend more time searching for insects than I would driving him to his new home. I had to find a way to keep him busy while I was driving. I remembered I had a golf ball in the vehicle and stopped to find it for my little friend. His excitement when he saw the golf ball was something to witness as he thought it was a nice big egg! I handed over the golf ball and he would spend the rest of the journey throwing it around the truck trying to crack open his `Egg`, this kept him busy and allowed me to focus on driving.

Banded Mongoose

Banded Mongoose are highly social and live in packs from a dozen to about 30 individuals, the largest pack recorded was in Kruger National Park and had 75 individuals. They sleep together in dens which may be in dead trees or holes in termite mounds. They will wake up at sunrise and lie in the sun close to their shelter until they warm up. They will then go out in search for food, if they are in a large group they will split up and forage in smaller groups.

Gang of Mongoose

Food is located by sight and smell, as the group separate in search for food they constantly keep in contact with a continual high pitched, birdlike chatter. Banded Mongoose do not post a sentry to keep watch, rather they rely on each individual to keep vigilant. If one mongoose spots a threat it will give a sharp twittering call to warn the rest of the pack, they will then stand up on their hind-legs to look around and locate the danger before they disappear into dense vegetation, down holes or to some other safe place. If there is sudden danger they will immediately scatter  at full speed to the nearest cover. Banded Mongoose will readily defend themselves and each other against predators.

On one occasion I saw a dog catch a young mongoose, the pack went into a frenzy of twittering and chased the dog down. The mongooses pushed together and charged the dog, the dog then dropped the mongoose from his jaws as he started to bark. The captured mongoose dropped to the ground and immediately joined the pack of advancing mongooses. The entire pack then slowly withdrew to safety after successfully saving the young pack member.

Banded Mongoose Standing up

Banded Mongoose will from mating pairs and mating is synchronised in the pack. This allows the females to give birth at the same, most of the time they will give birth on the same night. A female will then suckle any of the babies and shows no favouritism  to her own baby. The babies will drink milk for the first 5 weeks, during this time they will stay at the den with one or two females while the rest of the pack forage for food. After 5 weeks they will travel with the pack and younger males will catch insects and teach them to forage. The adults are very protective over the babies and if danger threatens they will from a circle around the young and move off slowly in a unit.

Banded Mongoose with baby Banded Mongoose with baby

Banded Mongoose are very entertaining animals to watch and photograph, during the day the are always on the move and you never know when they might pop in for a visit. Just be sure to keep any snacks out of reach from the bushveld gangsters or it will be stolen.

Banded Mongoose Banded Mongoose