Dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula – Sundeval) are delightful little creatures being the smallest, as there name implies, of the African mongoose. The Venda name for this animal is matswi and iduha in Ndebele. Uniformly brown in colour they are very gregarious, living and moving around together in groups of 15 - 30 individuals. They are nomadic but will stay in a particular area for a while if they find suitable habitat and enough food. They take refuge in termitaries (as the one shown above left of the species Macrotermes), rock crevices or hollow trees. They are not as shy as other mongoose and if you sit quietly next to a termite mound where they are resident they will soon be observed peering at you from one of the entrances.
They have shorter tails than other mongoose and short snouts. They are stockily built and are very social little animals that interact frequently with one another. Dwarf mongooses have very good eyesight and are active in the day (diurnal), emerging from their shelters after sunrise and returning before sunset. Before setting out on a days foraging they will spend at least an hour sunbathing and socializing with play (wrestling and chasing) and mutual grooming.
They are also quite vocal and have a vocabulary, which includes chirping and whistling bird – like noises and growls when angered. Dwarf mongooses are territorial and mark their territories by doing handstands against vertical objects and wiping their anal glands downward to paste a secretion on the objects. The colony consists of a dominant pair the female of which is visibly larger than the male.
They feed on insects, arthropods and small vertebrates and can often be seen digging furiously in search of prey. They have lightning fast reflexes and will gang together to fight off potential predators or threats such as snakes. A sick or injured dwarf mongoose will be fed and cared for by its companions. There are a number of cases on record where dwarf mongooses have rescued members of the colony from raptors (birds of prey). Dwarf mongoose mark each other with secretions – a process known as allomarking. In this way members of the group recognize one another.