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Banded mongoose

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Banded mongoose
Banded mongooses (M. m. grisonax) at Etosha National Park, northern Namibia
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Mungos
M. mungo
Binomial name
Mungos mungo
(Gmelin, 1788)
  range of the banded mongoose
Banded mongoose (M. m. colonus) at Maasai Mara in western Kenya

The banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) is a mongoose species native from the Sahel to Southern Africa. It lives in savannas, open forests and grasslands and feeds primarily on beetles and millipedes. Mongooses use various types of dens for shelter including termite mounds. While most mongoose species live solitary lives, the banded mongoose live in colonies with a complex social structure.



The banded mongoose is a sturdy mongoose with a large head, small ears, short, muscular limbs and a long tail, almost as long as the rest of the body. Animals of wetter areas are larger and darker colored than animals of dryer regions. The abdominal part of the body is higher and rounder than the breast area. The rough fur is grayish brown and black, and there are several dark brown to black horizontal bars across the back. The limbs and snout are darker, while the underparts are lighter than the rest of the body. Banded mongooses have long strong claws that allow them to dig in the soil. The nose color of banded mongoose varies from gray-brown to orange-red.[2][3]

An adult animal can reach a length of 30 to 45 cm and a weight of 1.5 to 2.25 kg. The tail is 15 to 30 cm long.[2][3]



Viverra mungo was the scientific name proposed by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788 for a mongoose that was described earlier by several other naturalists.[4] In the 19th and 20th centuries, several naturalists described mongoose specimens and proposed subspecies:

  • Adail banded mongoose, M. m. adailensis (Heuglin, 1861)
  • Boror banded mongoose, M. m. bororensis (Roberts, 1929)
  • North-west banded mongoose, M. m. caurinus (Thomas, 1926)
  • East African banded mongoose, M. m. colonus (Heller, 1911)
  • M. m. fasciatus (Desmarest, 1823)
  • Namibia banded mongoose, M. m. grisonax (Thomas, 1926)
  • Schwarz's banded mongoose, M. m. mandjarum (Schwarz, 1915)
  • M. m. marcrurus (Thomas, 1907)
  • Botswana banded mongoose, M. m. ngamiensis (Roberts, 1932)
  • M. m. pallidipes (Roberts, 1929)
  • M. m. rossi (Roberts, 1929)
  • M. m. senescens (Thomas & Wroughton, 1907)
  • M. m. somalicus (Thomas, 1895)
  • Talbot's banded mongoose, M. m. talboti (Thomas & Wroughton, 1907)
  • M. m. zebra (Rüppell, 1835)
  • M. m. zebroides (Lönnberg, 1908)

Distribution and habitat


The banded mongoose is found in a large part of East, Southeast and South-Central Africa. There are also populations in the northern savannas of West Africa. The banded mongoose lives in savannas, open forests and grassland, especially near water, but also in dry, thorny bushland but not deserts. The species uses various types of dens for shelter, most commonly termite mounds.[5] They will also live in rock shelters, thickets, gullies, and warrens under bushes. Mongooses prefer multi-entranced termitaria with open thicket, averaging 4 m from the nearest shelter, located in semi-closed woodland.[6] In contrast to the den of the dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose dens are less dependent on vegetation cover and have more entrances.[6] Banded mongooses live in larger groups than dwarf mongooses and thus more entrances means more members have access to the den and ventilation.[6] The development of agriculture in the continent has had a positive influence on the number of banded mongooses. The crops of the farmland serve as an extra food source.

The banded mongoose lives in many of Africa's protected areas.[1] The Serengeti of Tanzania, has a density of around three mongooses per km2.[7] In southern KwaZulu-Natal, mongoose numbers are at a similar density at 2.4 km2.[8] Queen Elizabeth National Park has much higher mongoose densities at 18/km2.[9]

Behaviour and ecology

Family group

Banded mongooses live in mixed-sex groups of 7–40 individuals with an average of around 20 individuals.[10] Groups sleep together at night in underground dens, often abandoned termite mounds, and change dens frequently (every 2–3 days). When no refuge is available and hard-pressed by predators such as African wild dogs, the group will form a compact arrangement in which they lie on each other with heads facing outwards and upwards. There is generally no strict hierarchy in mongoose groups and aggression is low. Sometimes, mongooses may squabble over food. However, typically, the one who claims the food first wins. Most aggression and hierarchical behavior occurs between males when females are in oestrus. Females are usually not aggressive but do live in hierarchies based on age. The older females have earlier estrous periods and have larger litters.[10] When groups get too large, some females are forced out of the group by either older females or males. These females may form new groups with subordinate males.[11] Relations between groups are highly aggressive and mongooses are sometimes killed and injured during intergroup encounters. Nevertheless, breeding females will often mate with males from a rival groups during fights.[12] Mongooses establish their territories with scent markings that may also serve as communication between those in the same group.[13] In the society of the banded mongoose there is a clear separation between mating rivals and territorial rivals. Individuals within groups are rivals for mates while those from neighboring groups are competitors for food and resources.[13]

Hunting and diet


Banded mongooses feed primarily on insects, myriapods, small reptiles, and birds. Millipedes and beetles make up most of their diet,[5] but they also commonly eat ants, crickets, termites, grasshoppers, caterpillars, earwigs and snails.[14][15][16] Other prey items of the mongoose includes mice, rats, frogs, lizards, small snakes, ground birds and the eggs of both birds and reptiles.[16] It will also eat vegetable matter in the form of wild fruits.[16] On some occasions, mongooses will drink water from rain pools and lake shores.[14]

Banded mongoose forage in groups, but each member searches for food alone;[14] however they work as a team when dealing with venomous snakes such as cobras. They forage in the morning for several hours and then rest in the shade. They will usually forage again in the late afternoon. Mongooses use their sense of smell to locate their prey and dig them out with their long claws, both in holes in the ground and holes in trees. Mongoose will also frequent the dung of large herbivores since it attracts beetles.[14] Low grunts are produced every few seconds for communication. When hunting prey that secrete toxins, mongooses will roll them on the ground. Durable prey is thrown on hard surfaces.[17]


Peeking from a burrow entrance

Unlike in most other social mongoose species, all females in a banded mongoose group can breed.[10] They all enter oestrus around 10 days after giving birth, and are guarded and mated by 1–3 dominant males.[10] The dominant males monitor the females and aggressively defend them from subordinates. While these males do most of the mating, the females often try to escape from them and mate with other males in the group. A dominant male will spend 2–3 days guarding each female.[10] A guarding male will snap at, lunge at or pounce on any males that come near.[10] A non-guarding male may follow a guarding male and his female and may face this aggression. Non-guarding males mate in a more secretive way.[10] Gestation lasts 60–70 days. In most breeding attempts, all females give birth either on the same day[10][18] or within a few days. Litters range from two to six pups and average 4. For the first four weeks of life, pups stay in the dens where they form an exclusive relationship with a single helper or escort, whose genetic relationship with the pups is unknown. These helpers are generally young nonbreeding males or breeding females who have contributed to the current litter; they help to minimize competition over food allocation among pups.[19] During this time they are guarded by these helpers while the other group member go on their foraging trips.[20] After four weeks, the pups are able to go foraging themselves. Each pup is cared for by a single adult "escort" who helps the pup to find food and protects it from danger.[21]


Banded mongoose skeleton in the Museum of Osteology

Few studies have found evidence of regular incest avoidance in mammals, but banded mongooses are an exception.[22] Successfully breeding pairs were found to be less related than expected under random mating.[23] Inbreeding depression is largely caused by the homozygous expression of deleterious recessive alleles.[24] Inbreeding depression appears to occur in banded mongooses as indicated by a decline in progeny body mass with increasing inbreeding coefficient.[23]

Interspecies relations


Banded mongooses have been observed removing ticks, fleas, and other parasites from warthogs in Kenya[25] and Uganda.[26]


  1. ^ a b Gilchrist, J.S.; Do Linh San, E. (2016). "Mungos mungo". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T41621A45208886. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Banded mongoose". Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  3. ^ a b "Banded Mongoose - Africa Mammals Guide - South Africa". www.krugerpark.co.za. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  4. ^ Gmelin, J. F. (1788). "Viverra mungo". Caroli a Linné, Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Vol. I (13th aucta, reformata ed.). Lipsiae: Georg Emanuel Beer. pp. 84–85.
  5. ^ a b Neal, E. (1970). "The banded mongoose, Mungos mungo Gmelin". East African Wildlife Journal. 8 (1): 63–71. Bibcode:1970AfJEc...8...63N. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.1970.tb00831.x.
  6. ^ a b c Hiscocks, K.; Perrin, M. R. (1991). "Den selection and use by dwarf mongooses and banded mongooses in South Africa". South African Journal of Wildlife Research. 21 (4): 119–122.
  7. ^ Waser, PM, LF Elliott, and SR Creel. 1995. "Habitat variation and viverrid demography". In ARE Sinclair and P Arcese (eds.) Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management and Conservation of an Ecosystem, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 421–447.
  8. ^ Maddock. A. H. (1988). Resource partitioning in a viverrid assemblage (PhD thesis). Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.
  9. ^ Gilchrist, J.; Otali, E. (2002). "The effects of refuse-feeding on home-range use, group size, and intergroup encounters in the banded mongoose". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 80 (10): 1795–1802. doi:10.1139/z02-113.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Cant, M.A. (2000). "Social control of reproduction in banded mongooses". Animal Behaviour. 59 (1): 147–158. doi:10.1006/anbe.1999.1279. PMID 10640376. S2CID 10172646.
  11. ^ Cant, M.A.; Otali, E.; Mwanguhya, F. (2001). "Eviction and dispersal in cooperatively breeding banded mongooses". Journal of Zoology. 254 (2): 155–162. doi:10.1017/s0952836901000668.
  12. ^ Cant, M.A.; Otali, E.; Mwanguhya, F. (2002). "Fighting and mating between groups in cooperatively breeding banded mongooses". Ethology. 108 (6): 541–555. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0310.2002.00795.x.
  13. ^ a b Jordan, N.R.; Mwanguhya, F.; Kyabulima, S.; Ruedi, P.; Cant, M.A. (2010). "Scent marking within and between groups in banded mongooses" (PDF). Journal of Zoology. 280: 72–83. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00646.x.
  14. ^ a b c d Rood, J. P. (1975). "Population dynamics and food habits of the banded mongoose". East African Wildlife Journal. 13 (2): 89–111. Bibcode:1975AfJEc..13...89R. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.1975.tb00125.x.
  15. ^ Smithers, R.H.N (1971) The mammals of Botswana, National Museums of Rhodesia. 4:1–340.
  16. ^ a b c "Mungos mungo (Banded mongoose)". Animal Diversity Web.
  17. ^ Simpson, C.D. (1964). "Notes on the banded mongoose, Mungos mungo (Gmelin)". Arnoldia, Rhodesia. 1 (19): 1–8.
  18. ^ Gilchrist, J.S. (2006). "Female eviction, abortion and infanticide in the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo)". Behavioral Ecology. 17 (4): 664–669. doi:10.1093/beheco/ark012.
  19. ^ Bell, M. (2007). "Cooperative Begging in Banded Mongoose Pups". Current Biology. 17 (8): 717–721. Bibcode:2007CBio...17..717B. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.03.015. PMID 17412587.
  20. ^ Cant, M.A. (2003). "Patterns of helping effort in cooperatively breeding banded mongooses". Journal of Zoology. 259 (2): 115–119. doi:10.1017/s0952836902003011.
  21. ^ Gilchrist, J.S. (2004). "Pup escorting in the communal breeding banded mongoose: behavior benefits and maintenance". Behavioral Ecology. 15 (6): 952–960. doi:10.1093/beheco/arh071.
  22. ^ Nichols, H. J.; Cant, M. A.; Hoffman, J. I. & Sanderson, J. L. (2017). "Evidence for frequent incest in a cooperatively breeding mammal". Biology Letters. 10 (12): 20140898. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0898. PMC 4298196. PMID 25540153.
  23. ^ a b Sanderson, J.L.; Wang, J.; Vitikainen, E.I.; Cant, M.A. & Nichols, H.J. (2015). "Banded mongooses avoid inbreeding when mating with members of the same natal group". Molecular Ecology. 24 (14): 3738–51. Bibcode:2015MolEc..24.3738S. doi:10.1111/mec.13253. PMC 5008155. PMID 26095171.
  24. ^ Charlesworth, D. & Willis, J.H. (2009). "The genetics of inbreeding depression". Nature Reviews Genetics. 10 (11): 783–96. doi:10.1038/nrg2664. PMID 19834483. S2CID 771357.
  25. ^ Warthog Archived 5 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine at Wildwatch.com
  26. ^ Banded Brothers episode 1 at bbc.co.uk