Water Mongoose - Atilax paludinosus

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African Civet - Civettictis civetta | Large spotted Genet - Genetta tigrina | Small spotted Genet - Genetta genetta | Selous' Mongoose - Paracynictis selousi | Yellow Mongoose - Cynictis penicillata | Small Grey Mongoose - Galerella pulverulenta | White-tailed Mongoose - Ichneumia albicauda | Water Mongoose - Atilax paludinosus | Large Grey Mongoose - Herpestes ichneumon | Slender Mongoose - Galerella sanguinea | Banded Mongoose - Mungos mungo | Dwarf Mongoose - Helogale parvula | Suricate - Suricata suricatta


Afrikaans Kommetjiegatmuishond
Zulu Mvuzi  Tswana Tshagane Shona Chidzvororo

6 cm
Toes spread on mud and soft soil

Distribution Dung
2 cm
Deposited in middens near water, 
contains shells
Contains water mongoose hair

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

Each foot has five long, finger-like toes with no webs between them as in other mongooses. The tip of the nose is pink and black, or black. The top lip is grooved.

Visible Male/Female Difference

Females from KwaZulu-Natal have two pairs of nipples on the belly while females from Zimbabwe have three pairs.

Habitat and Distribution

Always occurs near water except when moving from one body of water to the next. Thrives in fresh water, estuaries and even the sea. 


Eats crabs, rodents, insects, fish, bird's eggs, frogs and carrion. 


Can breed twice a year, litters of 2-4 are born August-February after gestation of 69-80 days. Weans from 30 to 56 days and solid food is provided by the mother until young are 11 weeks. Young are full-grown and sexually mature at 10-11 months with a lifespan of 17 years.

Behavior and Habits

Solitary, active during dawn and dusk and shelters in nests in dense vegetation at other times. Feels for submerged prey with its long front toes. Crabs are cracked open by throwing it to the ground, rock or other hard object. Crabs carapaces are not eaten whereas Cape clawless otters eat the whole crab. Water mongooses rarely swim. When alarmed, it tries to intimidate attackers by erecting its long hair to make itself look bigger. Under severe stress it can squirt the smelly contents of its anal glands into the face of a perceived predator. They dry themselves by grooming the coat with the teeth, resulting in hair being present in dung. Lives in overlapping home ranges of 150-200 ha. Males have smaller  ranges than females. 


Gives a series of loud, sharp calls. A high-pitched like a bark is made when cornered, snorts when nervous or curious.

Dung and Field sign

Discarded crab carapaces. Dung is cylindrical with tapered ends about 20 mm diameter containing water mongoose hair and deposited in middens, often on shrubs. Scent marks with anal gland and cheek gland secretions.


Water Mongoose Tracks

A crab eaten by a Water Mongoose

Safari Media Africa/C.A. Mitchell 2000-2012

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