Slender Mongoose, Is He Just Thin or What?
Almost every night while watching the camera at Nkorho Pan, a mongoose will slip into view, scurry around and sneak back out. He very rarely sits still long enough for us to get a good look, much less indentify which kind he is unless its the white tailed mongoose, as his obvious white tail gives him away. But this week we got to see a mongoose over on Elephant Plains, and the camera operator was able to catch up with him so we could not only identify him, but watch a few of his behaviors.
When I glanced at the caption “Slender Mongoose”, my first thoughts were “why is he skinny? Is he sick? No food?” I clicked on the video and didn’t see anything wrong with him, and he was digging and searching for food like all other mongoose do...so why is he called slender? I decided I better find out...
The Slender Mongoose has a long sinuous body and a long tail...well there you go, that’s how he got his name. When he is alarmed he will sit up on his back legs much like a squirrel and hold his head up high while scanning the horizon for the danger he suspects is near. When he sees it, he scurries back to his den, running with his body low to the ground and his tail trailing behind him. As he slips into the den, his tail slaps up into a vertical position almost as if he is teasing the predator.
This Slender Mongoose is very well tuned in to sounds and sights of predators and can easily distinguish between an eagle or other harmless birds such as crows. While determining which one is above, he will often freeze just long enough to figure out if he needs to run.
The mongoose female can produce on average of two litters per year, preferring the rainy season as birthing time. The litter is most often two little ones, but three are not unheard of. The coloring of the Slender Mongoose can vary greatly, from reddish brown to olive brown, all with yellow eyes.
So why is he always digging? The slender mongoose feeds on small vertebrates like rodents, lizards, snakes and birds, as well as their eggs. He also enjoys insects, like grasshoppers, termites, beetles, locusts, ants, and fly larvae. A lot of those delicacies are hidden under rocks or below the surface, so our little friend spends an abundant amount of time with his nose covered in dirt.
And what does Mr. Mongoose use to dig so swiftly before a predator in the sky sees him? He has long sharp claws, measuring up to 7mm across the curve. These claws allow the mongoose to make the most out of each and every fast sweep with his paws, excavating dirt, grabbing insects and lizards, all done with those sharp and steady claws.
Now sit back and take a moment to watch this little adventurous Slender Mongoose...and notice that he’s not malnourished or ill...