Common Dwarf Mongoose, Helogale parvula

The common dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), also known simply as the dwarf mongoose, is native to Africa. Its range extends from East Africa to Central Africa, south to Transvaal, and from Ethiopia and Eritrea. It prefers a habitat within open forests, arid grasslands, and bushlands at elevations of up to 6,561 feet. It is often seen in areas with termite mounds, where it likes to sleep, and can also be seen in areas with humans. It does not reside in extremely arid habitats or in forests with thick vegetation. The common dwarf mongoose appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status “Least Concern.”

The common dwarf mongoose is smaller than other mongooses, with a slender body and small face and ears. It can reach an average body length of up to eleven inches, with a weight of up to 12.3 ounces. Its fur can range in color from dark reddish brown to tawny yellow. Its diet consists of insects like termites, grasshoppers, and spiders, as well as snakes, small lizards and birds, and occasionally berries.

The common dwarf mongoose is active during the day and is highly sociable. It gathers in familial groups between two and thirty individuals. These groups are controlled by sex-based hierarchies, usually led by the oldest male and female within the group. The groups hold home ranges between 74.1 and 148.2 acres. Territories are marked by secretions from cheek and anal glands and are defended against predators and strange mongooses. Occasionally territories do overlap, and when conflict occurs, the group with more individuals wins.

The breeding season for the common dwarf mongoose occurs during the wet season, between the months of October and April. Dominant females typically breed first, and are responsible for rearing eighty percent of the group’s young, although the entire group does help raise young. During the breeding season, one to three litters are typically born and raised. Four to six pups are born per litter, and will remain in a termite mound for up to three weeks. Typically, one or more individuals will watch the pups while the rest of the group searches for food, a process that allows females lower in the hierarchy to nurse. At one week of age, the pups will venture out with the group to search for food, but will not catch food on their own until ten weeks of age. The common dwarf mongoose has gained a mutualistic relationship with the hornbill. The two species will use each other to search for food and watch out for predators.

Image Caption: Common Dwarf Mongoose, at Pairi Daiza, Brugelette, Belgium. Credit: Hans Hillewaert/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 3.0)