Meet the MongoosesBy Hannah Schardt; photos from Nature Picture Library
You may think this little mongoose is snuggling with its mama. But it’s actually hanging out with a babysitter!
For Africa’s banded mongooses, life is a group effort. They do more than keep an eye on each other’s babies. They also sleep together, play together, and work together to keep the whole pack safe.
A Merry Band
If you see one banded mongoose, chances are there are more nearby. A banded mongoose group usually has between 10 and 30 animals. But some have as many as 75! When a group gets too big, it may kick out some members. They will wander off and find mongooses that have been kicked out of other groups. And then they will band together into a new group of their own. No matter how a group is formed, all its members work as a team to keep each other fed, sheltered, and safe.
With its short legs and sharp claws, a banded mongoose is built for dining low to the ground—and under the ground. It digs up millipedes, termites, and other tasty creepy-crawlies. It also snacks on the eggs of reptiles and birds. If an egg or other food is too tough to bite into, the mongoose won’t give up. It will smack the food on the ground until it splits open.
After a busy day searching for food, a group of banded mongooses heads home to a shared underground den. Often that den is in an old termite mound. Sometimes it’s a hole in a hillside or another animal’s abandoned den. Once the mongooses find a good spot, they settle in for the night. As the sun sets, the whole group snuggles together to keep warm.
Outside the den, the mongooses stay on the lookout for danger. When one spots an approaching eagle, stork, or other predator, it lets out a chirpy warning. The group quickly bands together to flee for their lives—or to stay and fight.
Groupmates usually get along peacefully. But strangers are another story. If a mongoose group tries to sneak into a different group’s territory for food or to mate, it had better watch out! It may be greeted with a whole bunch of razor-sharp teeth and claws.
One den is never home for long. The group needs to stay a step ahead of predators that may be looking for a little mongoose meal. So after a few days, the whole group leaves the den and scurries off to new “digs.” A close-knit band of banded mongooses is always on the move!
“Meet the Mongooses” originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Ranger Rick magazine.
(Click on each image above for a closer view of the story.)