Some species of mongoose can be easily domesticated, are
fairly intelligent, and can be taught simple tricks, so they are
often kept as pets to protect the home from vermin. However,
they can be more destructive than desired; when imported into
the West Indies for the purpose of killing rats and snakes, they
destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna. For this
reason, it is illegal to import most species of mongooses into
the United States, Australia and other countries. Mongooses were
introduced to Hawaii in 1883, and have had a significant impact
on native species. Mongooses are sometimes referred to as "the
most dangerous animals on the planet" for this reason.
Mongooses are a common spectacle for road-side shows in India. Snake-charmers typically keep mongooses for mock fights with snakes. In Okinawa, Japan, there is a tourist attraction where a mongoose and a type of local venomous snake, the habu (one of various Trimeresurus species) are placed in a closed perimeter and allowed to fight, while spectators watch. However, due to pressure from animal rights activists, the spectacle is less common today.
The plural form of mongoose is properly mongooses. The common form mongeese is technically incorrect since the words goose and mongoose are not linguistically related. The word mongoose is derived from the Marathi word mangus.
Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)The mongooses belong to one of four families of terrestrial cat-like mammals descended from the Viverraines, which were civet/genet-like mammals. The mongoose family is a close evolutionary relation of the family Viverridae and mongooses are sometimes classified as members of this family; however, mongooses have characteristic and distinguishing morphological and behavioural features though they do have the same basic dental formula as the viverrids. In contrast to the arboreal, nocturnal viverrids, mongooses are more commonly terrestrial and many are active during the day. Most are solitary like the Egyptian mongoose but a few, for example meerkats, have well-developed social systems.
Less diverse than the viverrids, the 30 species and 11 genera of mongooses are assigned to only two subfamilies. The subfamily Herpestinae comprises 30 species of African and Asian mongooses, including the Cape gray mongoose, the Egyptian mongoose and the meerkat or suricate.
Mongooses have long faces and bodies, small rounded ears, short
legs and long tapering tails. Most are brindled or grizzled; few
have strongly marked coats. They have non-retractile claws that
are used primarily for digging.
Mongooses are distributed throughout North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia living in a variety of habitats from forests to open woodland, savanna, semi-desert and desert. Chiefly terrestrial, some are aquatic or semi-arboreal. The Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) can be found in Hawaii North America and is known locally as iole manakuke.
The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) is sometimes held as an example of a solitary mongoose, though they have been observed to work in groups also.
The meerkat or suricate (Suricata suricatta) lives in troops of 2-3 families each comprising a male, a female and 2-5 offspring in open country in Southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa). Meerkats are small, diurnal mammals foraging for invertebrates in open country. Their behavior and small size (they weigh less than one kilogram) makes them very vulnerable to larger carnivores and birds of prey. However, the meerkat has been known to eat small birds that migrate through Southern Africa. To protect the foraging troops from predators, one meerkat serves as a sentinel — climbing to an exposed vantage point and scanning the surroundings for danger. If the sentinel detects a predator it gives a loud alarm call to warn the troop and indicate if the threat comes from the air or the ground. If from the air, the meerkats rush as fast as they can to the nearest hole. If from the ground, the troop flees but not quite so fast as meerkats are more able to evade terrestrial predators than airborne raptors.
This Mongoose Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub