Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)

The Dwarf mongoose is the smallest carnivore found in Africa. Thus they can be called the opposite of lions, who is the biggest. But by no means are they any less interesting.

Fully grown they can weigh between 200 and 350 grams and is about 20 to 30 cm long. They are very social animals that have a very strict hierarchy system. But this system works in a special way as males and females have their own separate hierarchy. Thus the males and the female social status are completely independent. This means that there is an alpha male and an alpha female. These two individuals are normally the oldest members in the group. But even with this complex social structure they still work together taking care of the young. Subordinate females rarely become pregnant and when they do the young also rarely survive. But even so the subordinate females will still produce milk for the young to feed on when the alpha female is out foraging for food. Much like the lion, young males that reached adulthood will leave the group. But where lions will fight to obtain a new territory from existing prides, dwarf mongoose either fight for the control of a new group or just join the new group as subordinate males.

Dwarf Mongoose live in old abandoned termite mounds. They will also mostly bask in the sun early in the morning and defecate in the area. This means that you will find lots of mongoose dung on the eastern side of the termite mound. In this way these small creatures help people to find their sense of direction when they are lost in the vastness of Africa.

Hornbills and dwarf mongoose will often work together while foraging for food. As the mongoose can not always catch all the insects the find, hornbills benefit from that. But the birds also help the mongoose by keeping a lookout for predators in the area that might be a threat to the mongoose. They will eat mostly insects but also eat small lizards, snakes and rodents.

Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
2013/10/03

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