Mongoose are funny little characters. Having been around humans in Marloth Park for all of their lives, they’ve become quite used to us. We take special care to avoid getting too close to them, but they wait at the screen door to the veranda for us almost every day. They carry several diseases, and their bite may cause a severe infection.
As carnivores, known for killing snakes and being immune to the venom, they always welcome visitors as the snake season is fast approaching. Snakes don’t necessarily hibernate, but their system slows down during cool weather. Thus, we’re less likely to see snakes during the cooler winter months.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone killing snakes, scorpions, and other venomous reptiles and insects. They are all a vital part of the ecosystem of the bush. Add that we see no less than a dozen, often as many as 50 or 60, of the little furry creatures almost daily. We feel at ease knowing they’re keeping an eye out for venomous snakes and insects.
But, if it’s a choice of “them” or us, we let the mongooses do their thing with respect and admiration for their determination, skill, and immunity to toxins. Subsequently, we don’t hesitate to feed them daily, inspiring them to come around as often as possible, usually two or three times in one day, then miss a day or two, only to return with considerable enthusiasm to see what’s on the menu today.
Here are some exciting facts on mongooses from this site:
“Mongooses are long, furry creatures with pointed faces and bushy tails. Despite popular belief, mongooses are not rodents. They are members of the Herpestidae family, which also includes civets and meerkats.
There are 34 species of mongoose in 20 genera, according to the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web (ADW). With so many different types of mongoose, sizes vary greatly. According to National Geographic, their bodies range from the dwarf mongoose at 7 inches (18 centimeters) long to the Egyptian mongoose, 2 feet (60 cm) long.
According to National Geographic, most species of mongoose are found in Africa, but some also live in southern Asia and the Iberian Peninsula. Some species of mongoose have been introduced into other areas of the world, such as the Caribbean and Hawaiian islands.
Mongooses live in caves made of complex tunnels or trees in many different landscapes, including deserts and tropical forests. The bushy-tailed mongoose, for example, lives in lowland forests near rivers. The Gambian mongoose lives in areas with grasslands, coastal scrub, and forests.
Some species of mongoose are very social and live in large groups called colonies. Colonies can have as many as 50 members, according to ADW. Other species of mongoose like to live alone. Banded mongoose colonies live, travel, and fight together as a team. According to Animal Planet, they stay in one area for around a week, then move in a wave to another location, much like a flock of birds when they migrate.
Mongooses are active during the day and sleep at night. Throughout the day, they chatter incessantly to each other and combine discrete units of the sound somewhat like human speech, using vowel and syllable combinations to possibly coordinate group movements, foraging information, and other essential messages.
Mongooses are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetation. Typically, they prefer to eat small animals such as birds, reptiles, fish, snakes, crabs, rodents, frogs, insects, and worms. They will also supplement their diet with eggs, nuts, fruits, roots, berries, and seeds. To get into eggs, mongooses are known to crack the eggs against complex objects, according to National Geographic.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), most mongoose species are threatened but not extinct. Ironically, in the 1800s, mongooses were introduced to Hawaii and the West Indies to control rodent populations at sugarcane plantations. This introduction, in turn, caused many species of birds and other animals to almost become extinct. The small Asian mongoose is listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species.”
We enjoy visits from these humorous little animals. Their endless chatter amongst themselves truly sounds like conversations in the form of a high and low-pitched cackle. When they visit us, standing on the veranda, that cackle is different from those when they’re issuing a warning, such as when another band is approaching or an eagle or hawk is flying overhead. The variations are impressive, and if we listen carefully, we can detect the various tones. It’s pretty entertaining and fascinating.
So on to our little mongoose story. On Friday night, while out to dinner at Jabula with Kathy and Don and Rita and Gerhard, I asked Kathy if we could share in some of the leftover prawn shells and tails from both hers and Don’s dinner. They laughed when we suggested this. “Why in the world would you want our leftover prawn tails that always go into the garbage at the restaurant?”
We explained how we brought them home from their last dinner with us at Jabula when they didn’t have any interest in saving them in a “doggy bag.” I said it would be fun to see if the mongoose would like them. After all, they eat crusty snakeskin, crunchy scorpions, and spiny centipedes. Perhaps prawn (shrimp) tails and shells would be equally appealing.
When we had dogs in our old life, they loved the shrimp tails but not the shells. When Ben and Wille smelled shrimp cooking, they twirled around in circles, hoping to get the uneaten seats. We always laughed over their interest in them. Why would mongoose be much different?
So, last Friday night, Don gave us his leftover spicy peri-peri seasoned prawn parts, and Kathy, who agreed to give it a try as well, took her lemon-garlic shrimp tails in a doggy bag. We added Tom’s leftover rib bones to the plastic bag. The last time we brought the scraps home and served them to the mongoose, they ate every morsel, every tiny prawn leg, and every little scrap.
On Saturday morning, I received a text from Kathy saying, “Jessie, you’re nuts! My mongoose hated them, and now I have prawn parts stinking up my garden.” Tom and I laughed out loud. Were we lucky the last time they ate them?
Over the busy weekend with holidaymakers in the park, we never saw our band of mongoose again until Sunday afternoon when they arrived, looking into our eyes with their beady little eyes, wondering, “What’s on the menu today?”
We grabbed the bag of shells and bones from the fridge and proceeded to first dump only the prawn scraps onto the pavement at the edge of the veranda so they wouldn’t be covered in dirt on the ground. Immediately, while cackling with fervor, they went after them, grabbing a chunk and running off a little way into the bush to avoid sharing their bounty with the others, kind of like a dog does when they get a special treat.
Well, leave it to me to take a before and after photo to send to Kathy. In a few minutes, the prawn shells, tails, and heads were gone, gone, gone.
After Tom noticed them drinking from Frank’s litter water dish, he said, “Those were Don’s peri-peri seasoned prawn parts. Maybe they liked them better than Kathy’s lemon garlic seasonings.” We couldn’t stop laughing. They were thirsty from the spicy prawns.
After they finished the prawns, we dumped the rib bones, and once again, they got busy, grabbing bones and heading to the bush to avoid having to share. More cackling ensued. It was pretty fun.
Again, this morning, they arrived looking like oversized hedgehogs with their wet hair standing up from the gentle rain falling in the bush. This time, with no leftovers, we cut up some paloney (a huge round loaf of meat) for them, and they were as content as they could be.
Cackle. Cackle. Cackle. It was a fun morning in the bush. Hmm…that reminds me. Soon it will be Halloween, our ninth anniversary of traveling the world. Time to celebrate.
Photo from one year ago today, September 21, 2020:
|This photo was posted one year ago in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #182. The chef at the Blue Moon Cafe in Kenya in 2013 insisted we take a photo together! For more photos, please click here.