Today we look at one of the smallest mongooses, the common dwarf mongoose, Helogale parvula. Little more than 20cm long and weighing less than half a kilo, the dwarf mongoose is quite widespread in Africa, ranging from Ethiopia down to South Africa. Unlike the species previously reviewed, however, it does not generally inhabit forests, but rather grasslands and open country.
One of its favourite foods is termites, and it will often build its nests near termite mounds. These nests are inhabited by groups of up to twenty individuals, in which only the dominant pair breed. The groups also have some friendly acquaintances: hornbills! (didn’t see that coming, did you? Huh? yeah…) Dwarf mongooses and hornbills often forage together, gaining greater safety from warning each of danger, with their different sensory equipments.
Finally, I thought I would throw in some general remarks about mongooses. Mongooses form the family ‘herpestidae’, and their closest relatives are the family ‘viverridae’, which includes civets, genets, linsangs and binturongs, creatures which you may not have heard of, but which it would probably be easiest to imagine as ‘looking kind of like mongooses’. The main differences between the two groups are
1) Mongooses are often active during the day, while viverrids are mainly nocturnal;
2) Mongooses rarely climb trees, while many viverrids spend a lot of time in trees;
3) Viverrids are often pretty colours and patterns, with spots and stripes and so forth. Mongooses, not so much. But they are still cute!