White-tailed Mongoose

A white-tailed mongoose sniffs cautiously at carrion.

The white-tailed mongoose is the largest of the world's mongoose species and is common across the continent.

Name:
White-tailed mongoose
Scientific Name:
Ichneumia albicauda
Weight:
2.9-4.2 kg
Length:
53–71 cm
Mating Season:
Throughout the year

Description

The white-tailed mongoose’s body, from back to front, starts with uniquely white, long and bushy tail. From there its fur fades darker towards its hind legs which are just as black as its front ones. Its torso and back are both a grey color with a lighter, warmer orange-brown undercoat shining through. From the front its light face, pointy nose and eyes are the only things sticking out from within vegetation when a spotlight is put on this creature during the night as it camouflages. It is one of the larger species of mongoose found within the Kruger, with the average weight of males at around 3.6kg (lb), with females minutely smaller at a mean of 3.4kg (lb).

Distribution

The White-tailed Mongoose, unlike the mongoose species already discussed, can in fact be found in parts of the Sahara Desert, but only near the Nile in parts of Sudan right up to the border with Egypt. Its range stretches from the southernmost parts of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa up along the coast towards Somalia and Kenya as well as parts off the coast of Sudan and more inland in areas of Zimbabwe, northern Namibia, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and into Western Africa. This range does however exclude the densest parts of the rainforest, the Namib Desert and most of the old Cape Province of South Africa.

Status

After a recent reassessment of previously collected data, environmentalists have concluded that the conservation status of this species, like all other mongoose species found in the Kruger National Park, is nothing to be concerned about. Their broad range across Africa, far and wide, together with their substantial populations in protected areas has made these animals a very stable group going forward. Altitude doesn’t even seem to bother them which is evident when looking at populations in Ethiopia who live in altitudes of up to 3500m above sea level in savanna and woodland areas, living as strict insectivores most of the time, a very stable source of food less affected by human populations.

Habitat

Like other mongooses, White-tailed mongooses live where they can make a decent living. Savannah areas, woodland areas and even grasslands are all home to some population of white-tailed mongoose or another, keeping in mind it should be lower than 3500 meters above sea level, and be below the tree line. Wetter, more moist and humid areas aren’t seen as hospitable to these creatures, and this is why they aren’t found in rainforests or high rainfall tropical areas. Semi-desert and desert neighborhoods are also out of the picture when going house hunting with these animals, mainly due to the lack of an adequate food and drinking water supply.

Social Organization

An average white-tailed mongoose will sleep by its lonesome self during the day, while hunting and foraging for food in the same fashion at night. Only an estimated 13% of the total population of these animals are known to live in groups with other of their kind and share social interactions with them. They are territorial and also scent mark through the use of many different glands like fellow mongooses have been shown to do, with a particular preference for anal gland marking, most probably because of its dominance in the potency category.

Social Behavior

Their social time is preoccupied with foraging for the most part, with close to their whole day devoted to this task. The do however perform certain odd movements and exercises during this time while walking from one foraging ground to the next. They have been known to walk in a zig zag pattern, stop every now and again to lick and bite air for no particular reason and also make a muttering sound when harvesting insects that need to be dug out from under rocks or in holes. They walk throughout their whole home range during one eve’s foraging, and try and scent mark as frequently as possible as they go along.

Reproduction

White-tailed Mongooses have seldom been seen or recorded mating, and this is why there is little known about their courtship except that they mate many times within half an hour, where the female stops copulation each time. This is thought to occur during the dry season, just in time for their litter of 1 to 3 young to be born during the wet season between February and May, after a tough period of gestation for their mother. They mate only once annually compared to the 4 times a year some other mongoose species are able to reproduce and give birth to new young.

Anti-Predator Behavior

When attacked, at first these animals don’t seem like they could harm anyone. Their initial reaction is to freeze and potentially start running for cover faster than you might think a mongoose can run, very harmlessly. It is when their attackers catch up with them that their true colors start showing. Immediately they start their very well-rehearsed intimidation act where they erect all the hair on their back, along with their tails, to make them seem bigger than they really are. What follows is a fowl smelling wave of heavy anal sac secreting. If push comes to shove these animals may even engage in a fight with their predators.

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