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The dwarf mongoose is a small mammal that is native to Africa.

What is unique about this social little animal, and where does it make its home? Keep reading to find out more.

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Smallest of its Kind

Africa is home to an incredible variety of animals. There are the mighty elephants, majestic lions and speedy cheetahs, to name a few. But how much do you know about the smallest carnivore on that continent?That animal is a dwarf mongoose. This African mammal may look like a cross between a squirrel and a ferret, but it belongs in a family all its own. Join us in this lesson as we learn about the dwarf mongoose.

Characteristics of a Dwarf Mongoose

A dwarf mongoose, scientific name Helogale parvula, is a small mammal found primarily in Africa. It is the smallest of the mongoose family, with a fairly long body, short legs and long tail. About the size of a squirrel (7-10 inches long), it has a small head with a delicately pointed snout. Its ears, eyes and nose are quite petite.

Its fur is brown with flecks of gray and black, with a soft and fluffy look.

The dwarf mongoose, smallest of its kind
dwarf mongoose

What Does a Dwarf Mongoose Eat?

Although some mongooses are notoriously ferocious (attacking and killing cobras), the dwarf mongoose is not one of them. It is a carnivore, which means it eats other animals.

However, instead of hunting deadly snakes, this mongoose dines mostly on insects like beetles and grasshoppers. It sometimes feasts on the occasional bird, lizard and rodent, as well.

Habitat and Behavior

Like its cousin the meerkat, the dwarf mongoose is a social creature. It lives in groups of about 12-15, with a dominant female in charge of the pack. She is the boss; she gets to eat first, decides when to move, and generally tells the others what to do. This leadership helps the group run smoothly.

Old termite mounds make great homes for the dwarf mongoose.
termite mound

Each pack has a specific territory, often 75 acres. That’s the size of about 58 football fields! Their territories include lots of old termite mounds, which make great mongoose hotels. They can hide out in there and also tuck their babies away safely.Every morning, dwarf mongooses gather for an important activity: sunbathing. Then it’s time to forage, or look for food.

During these times, one mongoose has an important job. It is the lookout, typically the dominant male of the group. Like a bodyguard, he keeps an eye out for danger. If he spots a threat, he signals the others with a whistle or a variety of other noises. Everyone quickly hides, tucked away in their mounds.

A Good Friend

Dwarf mongooses are so territorial that they do not enjoy spending any time with neighboring packs. However, they do spend time with an unusual type of friend.

These animals hang out with a bird known as a hornbill. They have quite a unique relationship.

The red-billed hornbill, a buddy of the dwarf mongoose
red-billed hornbill

While dwarf mongooses forage for food, hornbills forage with them.

They signal each other if danger lurks nearby. So, not only do they have their own lookout, but these mongooses have their hornbill buddies, as well. It helps to have good friends!

Lesson Summary

The dwarf mongoose, Helogale parvula, is the smallest type of mongoose and is found in Africa. It is a carnivore, feeding mostly on insects, and lives in social groups of about 12-15 with a female leader. It has a special bond with the hornbill; they forage together and notify each other of danger.


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