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The business of a dwarf mongoose

Mon 06 May 2019

All endemic creatures great and small are well represented in the Reserve, but where many people’s interest is often focused on seeing the Big Five we also like to put some light on those smaller creatures with their interesting social lives and habits. Like for instance the adorable dwarf mongoose. And if you see more of them together: a business of mongoose.

We caught these three curious ones outside a deserted termite mound, which was now inhabited by this ‘business’ of mongoose. They are very sensitive to cold, so this termite mound – with its constant inside temperature and flow of air – offers them the protection they need, both from changes in temperature as from predators.

As highly social animals they live in groups of up to more than 20 animals, with a dominant male and dominant female, their offspring and various immigrants. Female dominance is not established by fighting but by a grooming competition: they lick each other and cover the other in saliva until one of the contestants gives up, sometimes after days! Make love, not war… Well, the males do it quite differently. They team up with a group and oust other dominant males to replace them.

It was a rare treat that we could really observe them (and they us) outside their termite mound. Usually, they are extremely shy and vigilant for predators like jackals, birds of prey and slender mongoose that take advantage of them being out in the open. Once we started the engine of the car again they sped off into their hiding.