Banded mongoose (Mungos mungo)

GenusMungos (1)
SizeLength: 50 - 65 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 18 - 25 cm (3)
Weight1 - 2 kg (2) (3)

The banded mongoose is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) is a long, slender carnivore that is widespread throughout much of southern Africa (2) (3).

As its name suggests, the banded mongoose has a number of distinctive dark bands that run horizontally across its back, starting at the base of the neck and continuing all the way down to the beginning of the tail (3). These bands help to distinguish the banded mongoose from the smaller common dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), which occupies similar habitats and has a similar social structure as the banded mongoose (2) (3).

Its wiry coat ranges from grey to grey-brown, with the tip of its tapered tail being a darker brown or black (2) (3).

The banded mongoose is widely distributed throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and is found as far north as Sudan and Somalia (1) (2). Although this species is present in Senegal and Gambia, it is generally thought to be rare in West Africa (1). 

The banded mongoose occupies a range of habitats, including grassland and brush-land, but shows a preference for wooded areas (1) (4). It is absent from drier areas, including desert and semi-desert habitats (1).

The banded mongoose lives in large, social groups of between 5 and 40 individuals (5). Living alongside other individuals provides the banded mongoose with a range of benefits including improved vigilance against predators (6), as well as a better chance of acquiring and defending resources from other groups and animals (5).

The home range of the banded mongoose can vary in size, from 0.8 to 4 square kilometres (3), and within this range it prefers to den in old termite mounds (4). The dens are communal and usually consist of a central sleeping chamber, or sometimes several smaller chambers, and up to nine different entrance holes (4). Within its home range, the banded mongoose scent marks using secretions from its anal glands and, though a banded mongoose group does not specifically defend its territory, encounters with neighbouring groups usually result in noisy conflict (3) (4).

Being diurnal, the banded mongoose usually emerges from its den early in the morning and will spend most of the day foraging, although the group will rest in the hottest part of the day, before returning to the den before sunset (4). The banded mongoose feeds mainly on insects and a group can cover up to three kilometres a day in search of food (2) (3) (4) (6). It has also been observed feeding on a variety of other items, including rodents, birds’ eggs and fruit (2) (3). For breaking into hard items such as egg shells, the banded mongoose has two special techniques (7). The first is to bite into the shell using its razor sharp teeth (7). A second, more unusual technique is to throw the object with its front legs, between its back legs, and onto the hard ground behind it (2) (3) (7).

In banded mongoose groups, several individuals may be reproductively active at the same time (8). A few dominant males will usually mate with and guard receptive females. The females, however, have been observed to escape their ‘guards’ in order to also mate with subordinate males (8). The gestation period is typically two months (2) (3), and remarkably the majority of females give birth on the same night (5). Banded mongoose pups are cared for communally by the group and are allowed to suckle from any lactating female (3) (5). The young remain in the den until they are around a month old, when they begin to join the adults on foraging trips (4).

There are currently no specific threats facing the banded mongoose (1).

There are no specific conservation measures in place for the banded mongoose at present (1). However, a number of populations exist in protected areas across Africa, including Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda (1) (9).

Find out more about banded mongoose research:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
  2. Kenmuir, D. and Williams, R. (1975) Wild Mammals - A field guide and introduction to the mammals of Rhodesia. Longman Rhodesia, Salisbury.
  3. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1988) Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers Ltd., Cape Town.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  5. Hodge, S.J., Bell, M.B.V. and Cant, M.A. (2011) Reproductive competition and the evolution of extreme birth synchrony in a cooperative mammal. Biology Letters, 7(1): 54-56.
  6. Gusset, M. (2007) Banded together: a review of the factors favouring group living in a social carnivore, the banded mongoose Mungos mungo (Carnivora : Herpestidae). Mammalia, 71: 80-82.
  7. Muller, C.A. and Cant, M.A. (2010) Imitation and traditions in wild banded mongooses. Current Biology, 20: 1171-1175.
  8. Cant, M.A. (2000) Social control of reproduction in banded mongooses. Animal Behaviour, 59: 147-158.
  9. Muller, C.A. and Bell, M.B.V. (2009) Kidnapping and infanticide between groups of banded mongooses. Mammalian Biology, 74: 315-318.