Mongoose, Dwarf

Helogale parula


At just 40 cm long including the tail the dwarf mongoose is the smallest and most numerous carnivore of Africa. They are very social with all pack members caring for the young, foraging together and grooming one another. Group sizes average 12 and are led by the alpha female, the largest of all pack members.

Conservation status : Least concern
Length : 40 cm (including a 17 cm tail)
Weight : 270 g to 340 g
Life span : 6 years
Gestation : 8 weeks
Young : 2 to 4

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Subordinate dwarf mongoose act as baby sitters to the alpha’s young. When she rolls onto her side to indicate she is ready to suckle the babysitters will bring her young to her.

Dwarf mongoose will break eggs by throwing them backwards through their legs at hard objects.

The vocabulary of the dwarf mongoose is excellent. They use small changes to denote whether the predator is terrestrial or aerial. The sentinel constantly emits all clear squeaks so that others in the pack need not look up from their foraging.

A dwarf mongoose can bounce as high as 90cm off the ground, not a bad feat for an animal that is just 7 cm high at the shoulder.

They can spot both aerial and terrestrial predators by having a pupil which is horizontally elongated. This gives them an elongated field of vision.

Both the red billed and yellow billed hornbills have a mutually beneficial relationship with the dwarf mongoose. They forage together, during which the hornbills will snap up insects that are flushed by the mongoose. The hornbills return the favour by sounding alarms for raptors which are a threat to the mongoose

When there is a dispute over who should take over from a deceased alpha female a groom off will ensue. The two combatants could groom each other for up to four days. The winner will be the one that proves themselves more persistent. Both will end drenched in saliva.

Other dwarf mongoose pack members spend more time looking after the alpha female’s young than she does. This means that she’s free to feed for longer which boosts her milk production.