Dwarf Mongoose - Helogale parvula

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Afrikaans Dwergmuishond

2 cm

Distribution Dung
3 cm,
Deposited in middens near dens
Contains insect exoskeletons.
Visible Male/Female Differences

Male larger than female

Habitat and Distribution

Prefers savanna woodland but is independent of water.


Eats mainly insects,  reptiles, mice, small birds and other invertebrates.


Only the dominant pair breeds successfully. If a subordinate female gives birth the dominant female kills the babies. . Litters of 2-5 are born at the start of the rainy season after gestation 40 days. Young are mobile enough to follow the group at 4 weeks. They are weaned at 6-7 weeks and are competent foragers at four months. Lifespan 18 years. They are preyed on mostly by large grey mongooses; also taken by raptors, especially small ones such as pale chanting goshawks, snakes, marabou storks, slender mongooses, black backed jackals, and monitor lizards. Predation falls most heavily on mongooses less than four months old.

Behavior and Habits

Only active in the day and sleep in dens, usually the ventilation shafts of large termite mounds. The are highly social and live in groups of up to 32 (average 12). They forage in a groups but each individual catches its own food, killing their their prey with a bite to the head. Adults do not share food with each other but babysitters give food to juveniles. Groups are a breeding pair with multiple and successive litters.

They defend their territory which can be up to 1 sq km. They moving to a new den every day and foraging through their territory on an 18-26 day cycle . Territories are passed down through the generations of the group. Anal and cheek gland secretions are used to mark upright objects near termite mounds used as dens. Markings from the anal gland lasts between 20-25 days.  

Sick and injured adults are cared for by the group and groomed and fed until they recover or die. When the pack forages sentinels stand guard, looking away from the group to detect predators stalking from behind and give a continuous all-clear call, If a predator is spotted, a specific alarm call identifies the direction of the threat ground or sky) and distance and degree of danger.


A continuous 'cheep' is a contact call while foraging. A high pitched 'tsiji' is a signal that another group, or a threat has been spotted. Predators on the ground are mobbed and attacked, led led by adult subordinates, followed by juveniles and then sub adults. The dominant male wisely remains in the rear and joins them only occasionally.  They are often successful in driving the predator away and sometimes rescue a pack member that has been caught by mobbing the predator.

Dung and Field sign

Dung is deposited in middens near dens; droppings are up to 3cm long and less than 1cm thick and contains insect fragments.

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