White-tailed Mongoose, Ichneumia albicauda

The white-tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) is the only species in the genus Ichneumia, and the largest of all mongooses. The scientific name Ichneumia is derived from the Greek word ichneumon, which translates to “tracker”. Albicauda is derived from the Latin albus, meaning “white”, and cauda, meaning “tail”.

The white-tailed mongoose can be found in most areas of Africa that are south of the Sahara, as well as the southern region of the Arabian Peninsula. It prefers a wide range of habitats from savanna woodland to semi-desert habitats, but tends to avoid damp areas like the Congo River basin and exceedingly dry regions.  These mongooses also prefer habitats with plenty of vegetation cover at the edges of forests or streams.

The average weight if the white-tailed mongoose ranges between 6.4 and 9.2 pounds, with an average body length between 21 and 28 inches. The tail can reach a length of up to 19 inches, taking up nearly forty percent of the entire body length. The large ears are low set on its narrow head. The white-tailed mongoose has yellowish to tawny fur, with long, coarse guard hairs that are black in color, giving it an overall grey color. The forelegs and hind legs are black from the knee down, and the fluffy tail is yellow from the base with white fur reaching to the tip. Although the rest of the body is covered in long hair, it lacks hair on the paws and upper lip.

The white-tailed mongoose can be considered nocturnal. It rests within abandoned burrows, termite mounds, or tree hollows located under the roots. Males hold territories that can range up to .6 miles, while females hold smaller territories of up to .4 miles. Male territories do not overlap, although female and male territories often do so. This mongoose is a solitary creature, and females are the only members to live together. They prefer to live alone or with their young, however, and if residing with other females, will not interact with them. If more than one mongoose is sighted, the group is either a mother and her young, or a breeding pair. Vocal interactions only occur during mating season, when the mongooses will emit barking noise. Unlike other species of mongoose, they do not stand on their hind feet.

Little is known about the reproductive habits of the white-tailed mongoose. Typically, litters are born between the months of February and May, suggesting that their breeding season occurs only once a year. The young are weaned at nine months of age and will leave their mother to establish territories elsewhere.

The diet of the white-tailed mongoose consists mainly of insects including beetles, mole crickets, and locusts. However, it will eat shrews, lizards, mice, rats, small birds, snakes, and even fruit. When eating bird eggs, it will toss the egg between its hind legs, breaking it open on a hard surface. Occasionally, this mongoose will attack domestic poultry. The conservation status of the white-tailed mongoose is of “Least Concern”.

Image Caption: White tail mongoose. Credit: Pmcnully/Wikipedia