When asked to name some of African carnivores, what animals usually come to mind? Most likely lions, cheetahs and leopards. Possibly wild dogs and hyenas. But did you know there are other, much smaller meat eaters out there as well?
Africa’s smallest carnivore has a long slender body, weigh approximately 10 ounces and is around 15 inches long (a little bit longer than a ruler). Their tail is almost as long as their body. They are normally dark brown, have large pointed heads and small ears. Can you guess what that is?
None other than the Dwarf Mongoose!
EcoTraining Guides & Guardians offers 12 interesting facts about the Dwarf Mongoose
Dwarf mongooses have a mutualistic relationship with red-billed and yellow-billed hornbills. They often forage for insects together and warn each other if they detect anything that might endanger them.
They live in groups of between eight and 30 animals.
The plural of mongoose is mongooses — not mongeese!
Their front feet have long, curved claws that are perfectly designed for digging when they go foraging for food. They eat snails, termites, grasshoppers, beetles, scorpions, centipedes, reptiles and eggs.
They have incredible senses. They detect their prey through using sound and smell. Their vision is perfectly adapted for spotting aerial predators, as they have horizontal elongated pupils that give them an enlarged field of vision.
Within each group there is strict hierarchy with a dominant Alpha pair. This Alpha couple mates for life, with the Alpha female leading the group.
Generally speaking, only the Alpha pair breeds. Sometimes a subordinate female will breed and have offspring. However, the survival rate of these offspring is very low as the Alpha female will often kill these babies to give her offspring the best chance of survival. This is known as infanticide.
The Shangaan name for the Dwarf Mongoose is machiki-chorr.
Among its enemies are birds of prey, snakes and jackals (who see them as a tasty snack). Because of this, the Alpha male is always on the lookout for danger.
Fork-tailed Drongo birds can sometimes be seen hanging around the Dwarf Mongooses. They like to wait for the mongoose to find a tasty snack, and when the moment is right, they mimic an alarm call so they can steal the mongooses’ meal. Why? Seems these clever birds have figured out that animals like the Dwarf Mongoose won’t ignore alarm calls, even if that means abandoning a tasty meal. Sneaky! This is called kleptoparasites.
They are nomadic, curious creatures that are a lot of fun to watch on a game drive. They are diurnal (daytime animals). They move from den to den in search of food. They like to sleep in old termite mounds, but are equally at home in hollowed out trees or piles of stones.
Rough-scaled Plated Lizards like to live with Dwarf Mongooses in termite mounds. Why? Because the reptiles feed on the mongoose fecal matter.
So, next time someone asks you about carnivores in Africa, don’t forget to mention the littlest one!
Tags: Africa's smallest carnivore, African carnivores, Dwarf mongooses