The banded mongoose is commonly encountered across Southern Africa's wilderness areas.
The most prominent physical feature that the banded mongoose possesses that sets it apart from other species is its distinct dark and light synchronized stripes. These stripes are found on its back right through to its rump and tail. They are considerably larger than their dwarf and slender cousins, weighing more than double the 715g maximum that slender mongooses usually reach. They are typically 1 to 2 kg in weight (2.2 to 4.4lb). They bear typical mongoose features, including a characteristic broad head, pointed snout and medium-long tail. Its mottled grey coat is also shared by other species of mongoose.
The banded mongoose can be found in scattered stretches throughout Sub-Saharan Africa as far north as Sudan. From Eastern Africa, they can be found right across the face of the continent in a strip on the edge of the Sahara Desert towards Somalia, where its range runs along the coast right down to South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Further inland, in can be found in Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, parts of Botswana, Namibia, Angola and more east in Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya and parts of Ethiopia respectively. Like other species of mongoose, the banded mongoose is absent in the harsh stretch of the Namib Desert that runs along the coastline.
Studies about the status of the banded mongoose species published in 2016 indicate that the species is in a very healthy state and of least concern to conservation programs and environmentalists due to their low threat of endangerment. Population densities are very inconsistent but overall higher in areas with more cover compared to grassland or savanna areas, represented by data from the Serengeti in Tanzania and from Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Their population is considered stable, despite the exact or estimated numbers being unknown.
Banded mongooses are very conventional mongooses in the sense that they are usually found close to or near a termite mound, but in addition to this also close to a water source. Savanna areas with scattered trees or alternatively woodland areas are habitats in which these animals are most frequently found. Unlike dwarf mongooses, these animals do not like to be out in the open very often, preferring undergrowth in which they are less vulnerable and able to take cover when necessary. Their diets consist almost solely of invertebrates like beetles or millipedes, along with the family favorite; termites.
The largest groups of mongooses found are those of the banded mongoose. Groups or packs are usually up to 35 members large, but rise to twice that number in some areas of the Kruger National Park. There is no reproductively dominant pair of banded mongoose that exclusively mate, but instead around four females who breed with roughly the same amount of males in each pack to complete the pairs. The oldest pair, however, still typically governs and leads the pack, making up the peak of the hierarchy in such a group. The home range or territory size of such a group is typically around 80 ha (0,8 square kilometers).
These territorial animals are mostly active during the day, when they drink water, catch insects from under rocks or within tree stumps or possibly even mate or groom one another. They spend their nights sleeping within burrows underground, only coming out of their cozy shelters after one member has looked around outside and given the go ahead that it is indeed safe. Then begins their long day of foraging, where they scurry for up to 10km in search of treats to eat or water, led by a single senior female. Food with hard shells - like some millipedes - is generally thrown against a nearby rock to kill it in before feasting upon its flesh.
The annual periods in which banded mongoose pairs mate is usually the same year after year within a pack, but not necessarily between different packs, although the goal is usually to give birth to young during the rainy season. Before copulation, a male may spread his scent vigorously from his anal glands. Pairs will then chase each other and finally mate. Two months after the female’s six day ovulation cycle, she will give birth to around four new pack members, and may do this as many as four times a year from the age at which she reaches sexual maturity and is able to conceive (11 months).
Banded mongooses are some of the most impressive animals when it comes to self-defense. They engage in unique mobbing attacks on their attackers. Using their erect postures while standing on their hind-legs, synchronized movements forward and wiggling motions from side to side, they sometimes scare off predators much larger than themselves. Jackals and predatory birds are some of the more easily intimidated enemies of the banded mongoose, while servals, caracals and larger dogs are some of the record scares. They also use this effective method of defense when they feel threatened by other, non-carnivorous animals like antelope or bird species.
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