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Banded mongoose, the fascinating feisty little snake hunters of African savanna.

The banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) is a mongoose species native from the Sahel to Southern Africa. It 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. Their fur is shaggy and greyish brown with several dark brown or black horizontal stripes on the back.

Banded mongoose occur in a wide variety of habitats ranging from savannah to open forest, but wet areas like swamps are usually not preferred. Normally these mongooses live in colonies of up to 20 individuals, but it is possible to see even larger groups.

The species uses various types of dens for shelter, most commonly termite mounds. They will also live in rock shelters, thickets, gullies, and warrens under bushes. Mongooses prefer multi-entranced termitarium with open thicket, averaging 4 m from the nearest shelter, located in semi-closed woodland.

In contrast to the den of the dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose dens are less dependent on vegetation cover and have more entrances. Some of these termite mounds offer several access points for easier access for everyone as well as plenty of emergency exits. At night the whole group tends to sleep together in the same den. They move to other communal dens every three to five days.

They have a strong social system and an average colony consists of several breeding males and females plus sub-adults and offspring. There is generally no strict hierarchy in mongoose groups and aggression is low. Sometimes, mongoose 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. Female are usually not aggressive but do live in hierarchies based on age. The older females have earlier estrous periods and have larger litters. 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. 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. Mongooses establish their territories with scent markings that may also serve as communication between those in the same group. 

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. All the adults co-operate with each other and help rear the young. Banded mongooses are strictly diurnal. This means they come out in the morning and spend the whole day feeding, foraging and resting.

Banded mongoose feed primarily on insects, myriapods, small reptiles, and birds. Millipedes and beetles make up most of their diet, but they also commonly eat ants, crickets, termites, grasshoppers, caterpillars and earwigs. Other prey items of the mongoose includes frogs, lizards, small snakes, ground birds and the eggs of both birds and reptiles.

Females all come into oestrus roughly ten days after giving birth and are guarded and mated by the dominant males. After a gestation period of 60 to 70 days all the females give birth around the same time (if not on the same day) to a litter of up to six pups.

The pups spend their first weeks in the dens, with one to three babysitters to look after the young whilst the rest of group goes out to forage. After four weeks the pups are big enough to go foraging, but each pup is escorted by an adult who protects against predators, helps and teaches the pup to find food. The pups are nutritionally independent after three months.

Habitat loss adds to the decease of the species as they are not so easily found in towns and cities, but the main threats to banded mongooses in the wild are birds of prey and occasionally rock pythons.

Fun Fact: Mongooses can tolerate a certain about of snake venom, whereas their cousins meerkats can tolerate some scorpion venom.  This is suited to their different living conditions.

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