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Thai Mongoose

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Crab-eating Mongoose

Science Name : Herpestes urva
General Characteristics : Its size is bigger than any other species of mongooses. It has white vertical line at both side of its neck passing from the ending part of its mouth to shoulder. Its tail is quite short. Its coat is coarse. Its back is gray and black in color. While its cheek and chin are white in color.
Habitat / Food : It is found in Myanmar, Indochina, Taiwan, and Thailand. In Thailand, it is found in Eastern part and Southwestern part. It eats crabs, shellfish and other small animals such as fishes, frogs, and small green frogs.
Behavior / Mating : It stays in thick forests near water. It usually hunts at nighttime. Its keen on swimming. Gestation period is around 2 months. One litter contains 2 – 4 young.
Current Status : It is a protected animal of Thailand under Thai Wildlife Protection Act B.E. 2535.

Javan Mongoose

Science Name : Herpestes javanicus
General Characteristics : Its size is slightly bigger than squirrel. Male size is much bigger than that of female. Its coat is red-brown in color. The tip of its nose is sharp. Its ears are shorter than body. When it is frightened or fighting, its body hair will stand up.
Habitat / Food : It is found in Iran, India, Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia, and Java. It eats small animals especially snakes and rats as well as frogs, small green fogs, crabs, ducks, chickens, birds, insects, and fruits.
Behavior / Mating : It hunts both nighttime and daytime. It sleeps in soil hollows. It does not like climbing on trees. It prefers grass forests or sparse forests to dense forests. It is a nimbly animal. It is mature and ready for mating at the age of 2 years. Its gestation period is around 6 months. One litter contains 2 – 4 young. It can live up to 12 years.
Current Status : It is a protected animal of Thailand under Thai Wildlife Protection Act B.E. 2535.

The Fearless Snake Killer

Author: Ruel Hinaloc

SMALL and furry, the mongoose hardly looks like a snake killer. Yet, says author R. O. Pearse, “perhaps the snake’s most vicious enemy . . . is the mongoose.” Continues Pearse: “This little chap must surely pack as large a chunk of sheer, naked courage in his little body as any other creature of the wild . . . His attacks on snakes are legendary.”

Just what is this extraordinarily brave creature? The mongoose belongs to a large family that ranges over many parts of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. There are several genera and over 40 species of this small mammal. These vary in size from the dwarf mongoose, just over a foot [0.3 m] long, to the crab-eating mongoose of southeast Asia, which is four feet [1.2 m] long. Most have short legs, long bushy tails, and long bodies covered with thick, coarse fur, gray to brown in color. Their ears are small and their noses usually pointed.

Some are solitary nocturnal creatures. Others come out in the daytime and are quite sociable, such as the yellow mongoose, which lives in colonies of up to 50. Their homes? Mainly, rocky crevices or holes in the ground. Sometimes they dig these themselves, but often they simply take over burrows abandoned by other animals. They have even been known to move into empty termite heaps and anthills.

Although the mongoose may look relatively harmless, make no mistake about it: It is a predator alert, bold, and agile. The diet of some species includes insects, beetles, worms, snails, lizards, frogs, and crabs, as well as eggs and fruit. The mongoose is intelligent and crafty. The banded mongoose, for example, is said to perform the trick of standing erect on its hind legs and then falling sideways. Why? To cause curious guinea fowl to approach and be caught!

Its reputation as a snake killer, though, has given the mongoose its fame.

Snake Versus Mongoose

But can this tiny creature really defeat a fearsome cobra in combat? South African writer Laurens van der Post describes a typical snake-mongoose encounter in his book The Heart of the Hunter: “I have seen [a mongoose], no more than thirteen inches [33 cm] long from head to tail and perhaps only five inches [13 cm] high, take on a six-foot [1.8 m] cobra. After a series of adroit and nimble feints wherein the snake repeatedly struck, to miss him by a bare millimetre, he would dash in, seizing the cobra at the back of the neck to bite instantly through its spine.”

It is the supreme confidence and courage of the little mongoose, coupled with its lightning ability to dodge the strikes of the snake, that enable it to vanquish its deadly foe.

The Serpent’s Bite

Is the mongoose, though, somehow immune to the serpent’s venom? Not entirely. But it takes a large amount of venom to kill a mongoose. One authority says that eight times the lethal dose for a rabbit is required to kill a mongoose. It is rare for a mongoose to die from a snakebite.

More likely is a mongoose to die from eating a poisonous snake! Yes, after killing its dangerous foe, the victor makes a meal of it, starting with the head. Says The International Wildlife Encyclopedia: “Several [mongooses] have been found dead and post mortem examination has shown that they have eaten a snake whose fangs have punctured the wall of the stomach so that the poison has entered the bloodstream.”

However, while deadly to cobras, mongooses are somewhat less successful at killing vipers. For one thing, they do not build up immunity to a viper’s venom. Additionally, vipers are faster than cobras in their ability to strike.

Mongooses as Pets ?

Do not conclude, though, that the mongoose is innately vicious. On the contrary, some species of mongoose have been domesticated and made lovable, intelligent pets. In Sauce for the Mongoose, author Bruce Kinloch gives a delightful account of his pet, a banded mongoose called Pipa. Full of mischief and lively tricks, Pipa was a constant source of entertainment for the family. One trick common with mongooses convulsed the family with laughter the first time they saw it. The author describes what happened:

‘Pipa found a round white seashell and maneuvered until he had his back close up against one of our picnic boxes. He took the shell firmly between his forepaws, swayed up and down, backward and forward, all the time swinging the shell in his forepaws, something like a baseball pitcher’s preparations for a throw. Suddenly he sprang into the air and flung the seashell backward between his hind legs to smack against the picnic box with a crack like a pistol shot. At last it dawned on us. Pipa, by sheer instinct, was trying to break a seashell in the manner that a mongoose will use to break an egg.’

Our furry friend is thus lovable and formidable. And though its occasional role as snake killer may make us cringe a bit, it delights us with its antics.


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