Small Asian Mongoose, Herpestes javanicus

The small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) is native to Southeast and South Asia, but it has been introduced into other areas. In the western area of its range, populations are sometimes known as a separate species, called the small Indian mongoose or the Indian mongoose. Its range includes the mainland area between Iraq and China and the island of Java. It can be found at elevations of up to 7,217 feet in these areas. The range in which it has been introduced includes Caribbean and Pacific islands like Jamaica and Saint Lucia, as well as mainland areas in Venezuela. This species prefers a habitat in arid forests and scrublands in most of its range, preferring rainforests on Pacific islands. It has been found in human populated areas. It holds twelve recognized subspecies.

The small Asian mongoose is small, reaching an average body length of up to 2.2 feet, with males growing larger than females. Its small size helps distinguish it from Herpestes edwardsii, which shares its range. The small Asian mongoose is solitary, but males will sometimes form bachelor groups, which share dens. After forty-nine days of pregnancy, females give birth to a litter containing between two and five pups. The main diet of this species includes insects, but it will eat many creatures, including crabs, scorpions, snakes, frogs, and birds.

The small Asian mongoose’s introduction onto the island of Jamaica occurred in 1872. Because of the increase in sugar cane plantations on the island, as well as on the islands of Hawaii and Fiji, the populations of rodents increased as well. The mongoose was brought to the islands to eradicate the rodent problem. After the success of this introduced species on the plantations in Jamaica, plantation owners in Hawaii brought seventy-two mongooses in 1883 into the Hamakua Coast in, on the Big Island. These individuals were raised and bred, and their offspring were sent to plantations on the smaller islands. These individuals hold larger home ranges than those in the native range of the species, and display genetic differences caused by a fragmented range. It is thought that islands of Lana’i and Kaua’i do not have mongooses, although this has not been proven. Some tales say that Kaua’i was meant to have mongooses, but the crates holding the creatures were drowned.

The small Asian mongoose was introduced onto the island of St. Croix in order to control the rat population at sugar plantations in 1884. However, this effort was not successful. Instead of reducing the rat population, reptiles on the island were threatened. The green iguana dwindled in number because of the small Asian mongoose, and the St. Croix ground lizard was completely wiped out on the main island. Other species, including ground nesting birds, have been affected by the introduction of the species, which has been known to prey upon baby white-tailed deer. On Okinawa Island, the small Asian mongoose was introduced in 1910 to help control the population of poisonous snakes. This also occurred on the island of Amami Ōshima, but the mongoose became a pest in both of these areas as well.

In more recent years, it has been found that the small Asian mongoose has become an extreme pest on St. Croix and Hawaii. In these areas, it eats large numbers birds and bird eggs, threatening the populations of the island’s local birds. This species can carry leptospirosis, an infection that can be given to humans. The small Asian mongoose appears on the IUCN Red List () with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption: Herpestes javanicus en Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre. Credit: Parc des Mamelles/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)