Dwarf Mongooses live in close-knit clans, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the occasional squabble between family members! While walking around Pretoriuskop Rest Camp on a recent visit to the south of the Kruger National Park, I spied two of the tiny tykes continuously working on each other’s nerves, until eventually and inevitably the fight escalated into blows.
With a weight of only 350g and growing to a maximum length of 40cm (including its tail), the Dwarf Mongoose is the smallest mammalian carnivore in South Africa. They inhabit open savannas and woodlands with an ample supply of termite mounds and fallen logs and often in or near rocky outcrops. They prey on anything from insects, spiders and scorpions to reptiles (including snakes), birds and rodents, often banding together to overpower larger prey.
Diurnal in habits, Dwarf Mongooses live in clans of up to 40 members occupying a fixed home range within which they may have as many as 20 dens (often in termite mounds, tree stumps, rocky outcrops or in tunnels dug by themselves or other animals). These clans are controlled by a dominant pair that stays together for life. The dominant female gives birth to litters of 1-7 pups after a 2 month gestation, usually in the rainy season. While the babies will only suckle from their mother, all troop members assist in raising the young. Dwarf Mongooses are exceptionally curious, and even though they flee for cover at the slightest sign of danger it doesn’t take very long before they start popping up again to check out whatever it was that disturbed them. They have a life expectancy of only about 6 years in the wild.
The IUCN considers the Dwarf Mongoose to be of least concern. It occurs from Ethiopia and Somalia southwards to Angola and South Africa. In South Africa it is to be found from northern Kwazulu-Natal through Mpumalanga and Limpopo into the north-eastern corner of the North West Province.