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Marsh Mongoose
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Herpestidae
Subfamily: Herpestinae
Genus: Atilax
Species: A. paludinosus
Binomial name
Atilax paludinosus
Cuvier, 1829

The Marsh Mongoose, or Water Mongoose, is a medium-sized mammal weighing 5.5–9 lb. (2.5–4.1 kg), with a body measuring 18–24" (46–62 cm) and a tail measuring 12–21" (32–53 cm). A member of the mongoose family, it is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with a preference for permanent freshwater habitats bordered by dense vegetation, such as marshes, reed beds, and estuary (though sightings have been recorded in hilly areas with little or no aquatic wildlife presence). The Marsh Mongoose is an important member of the community of animals inhabiting the papyrus swamps, where deoxygenated water limits aquatic life to various air breathing fish, frogs, insect larvae, snails, and mammals.

Contents

Fur

The Marsh Mongoose's dark brown fur (lighter on the undersides), with black-tipped guard hairs, is long and coarse on the body and short about the hands and feet. The paws, unwebbed with underdeveloped pads, are soft and sensitive, resembling those of a raccoon, with the thumb passively enhancing grip on slippery surfaces. The claws are short and blunt and used for digging . There is little hair around the anus and on the upper lip. Typically, there are two pairs of mammae. The lower canines are well formed while the premolar teeth are thick and used for crushing hard foods. The thick tail narrows shortly to a point.

Behavior

The Marsh Mongoose is a voracious carnivore, consuming any form of meat it can catch, as well as a wide variety of fruit. This mongoose will frequently swim along river banks, its head above the water, patiently and methodically sifting through underwater holes and crevices looking for aquatic animals to eat. An intelligent creature, the Marsh Mongoose has been observed throwing crabs and snails against rocks in order to break open the shells. Some accounts claim that the Marsh Mongoose will sometimes lay very still, its tail up, and that in this position, the pink anal region makes a startling contrast against the dark fur, which induces birds to come near and peck at it; When the birds come near, they are killed and consumed.

The Marsh Mongoose is solitary, spend most living time at night, and crepuscular, though activity has been observed during the day. An excellent swimmer, the Marsh Mongoose nonetheless prefers to keep its head above water, and frequently rests on patches of grass and floating vegetation. Regular in its habits, this mongoose follows smooth and well-defined paths near shorelines and other water bodies, frequently hidden by vegetation. The territories of Marsh Mongooses are rigidly enforced, exclusive, and usually spaced along the waters around which they dwell. When threatened, the Marsh Mongoose emits a low growl, which may explode into loud, barking growling if it is further endangered. If cornered or otherwise seriously frightened, this mongoose may shoot streams of foul, brown fluid from its anal sacs. When excited, the Marsh Mongoose may make a high-pitched cry or an open-mouthed bleat.

Reproduction

The breeding habits of the Marsh Mongoose are little known. Two litters are produced a year, usually in the dry season and then in the wet season. A hole, near water, with dry grass bedding is usually used for birth, though if a hole is unavailable near water, nests are made of reeds, grass, and sticks. Up to three offspring per litter have been recorded, and the young open their eyes in 9–14 days, with weaning complete at 30–46 days. A second adult may accompany the family. Soon after weaning, the young depart.

Human interactions

In some parts of Africa the Marsh Mongoose is kept as a pet, and is considered tame and very clean if raised from a young age. In captivity, this species has been recorded as living up to 17 years.

References

  1. ^ Hoffmann, M. & Ray, J. (2008). Atilax paludinosus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern

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