The dwarf mongoose looks like a normal mongoose, short legs, small ears, long tail and a big head. It is the smallest of the mongoose family (18 – 28 cm, 210 – 350 grams). They are also known as the smallest carnivore in Africa. The colours can range from yellowish red to dark brown.
These tiny, but cute animals are diurnal animals. They are very social and live in extended family groups of anything from 2 – 30 individuals. The whole group will help to guard the family and also help with rearing the young, headed by the dominant pair (normally the oldest group members).
Young mongooses reach sexual maturity at round about 1 year of age. Males will leave the groups at 2 – 3 years, normally with some brothers, looking for others groups to join or to take over. The females will mostly stay with the group their whole lives and only really leave if they have lost their rank.
Mongoose is territorial and their territory is approximately 30 – 60 hectares, depending on the type of habitat. They will sleep at night in abandoned termite mounds but will also use hollow trees, piles of stone, etc. Their territories are marked with latrines and gland secretions. They may overlap with another group’s territory, but this can lead to fights between the 2 groups.
They can have up to 3 litters a year, but tend to breed only during the raining season. Only the dominant female will breed, but if conditions are good other females can also become pregnant. Normally, 4 – 6 pups are born after a 53 day gestation period and will stay under ground for the first 2 – 3 weeks of their lives. In that time at least one of the group members will stay behind to babysit the pups. After about 4 weeks, pups will start to join the adults when foraging. The whole group will help to feed the pups with prey animals up to about 10 weeks of age.
Their diet consists mostly of insects, spiders, scorpions, small lizards, snakes, etc, and every now and then – some berries. These mongoose is often seen foraging with hornbills (a mutualistic relationship), where both animals will look out for predators.
Story by Stefan (River Lodge)