The Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii) is a small, slender carnivore, with a long, bushy, tapering tail, short legs, and sharp, non-retractable claws (2)(3)(5)(6)(8). The snout is long and pointed, and the short, rounded ears barely protrude above the profile of the head (2)(3)(6)(8). The coat is coarse and fairly long, and greyish to light brown in colour, with the individual hairs banded black and white, giving an overall grizzled appearance. The muzzle, cheeks, edges of the ears and feet have a rusty brown tinge (2)(3)(6)(7)(8). The male is slightly larger than the female (3)(8). A number of subspecies of Indian grey mongoose are recognised, although a revision of these are needed (1)(8). This species can be distinguished from the small Indian mongoose, Herpestes auropunctatus, by its larger size and longer, coarser fur, which has a reddish rather than yellowish tinge (3)(6).
The Indian grey mongoose is mainly active during the day (2)(6)(8), feeding on a variety of prey, including insects, spiders, scorpions and other invertebrates, as well as frogs, lizards, rodents and snakes (8). It may also take vegetable matter such as fruit, and feeds on refuse and carrion (2)(3)(5)(6)(8). This species often kills and eats venomous snakes, being agile and quick enough to avoid being bitten (2)(5)(8). A small number of mongoose species, including the Indian grey mongoose, may be introduced to new areas in order to kill rats and snakes (8)(9).
The Indian grey mongoose is generally solitary, though the young may stay with the female for some time (2)(7)(8). Births may occur in May to June and October to December; in central India, litters were seen during June and July (8). The female may give birth two or three times annually (8). Litter size is usually two to four pups, born after a gestation period of around 60 days (2)(5)(6)(7)(8). Although helpless and blind at birth, the young develop rapidly, and will remain with the mother for up to six months (8).
The Indian grey mongoose is found from the central and eastern Arabian Peninsula, through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka (1)(2)(3)(5)(8). It has also been introduced to Japan and Peninsular Malaysia (1)(3)(8).
The habitat preferences of this mongoose have not been well documented, but in India it has been recorded in disturbed areas, dry secondary forest and thorn forest, and is found near human settlements (1)(6)(8). It is also reported to occur in open areas, including scrub and cultivated land (3)(8). The Indian grey mongoose shelters in tree hollows, holes in the ground or in rock crevices (5)(8).
Currently, only subjective population estimates for the Indian grey mongoose exist, and whilst it is not believed to be at risk of extinction in light of its large, widespread population and occurrence in human-dominated landscapes, scientists are not completely sure of its true status (9). As this species is found close to human settlements, the expansion of human-modified habitats in the more arid parts of its range, such as in the United Arab Emirates, may be helping the Indian grey mongoose to extend its range (7).
Although this species as a whole is not thought to face any major threats, it may experience some localised ones. In some areas, the Indian grey mongoose is captured and sold as a pet or for its skin, and all mongoose species are in demand for the wildlife trade. The meat is eaten by some tribes, and the hair used to make brushes and good luck charms (1)(8).
The Indian grey mongoose is listed on Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that there is some regulation of international trade in this species (4). This mongoose is legally protected in India, and in central India it is considered a sacred species and is not killed. The Indian grey mongoose also occurs in many protected areas. However, the IUCN recommend that further field surveys, ecological studies, habitat protection and monitoring of threats are needed in order to ensure that populations of this small carnivore remain secure (1)(8).
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Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London.
Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
Gilchrist, J.S., Jennings, A.P., Veron, G. and Cavallini, P. (2009) Family Herpestidae. In: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 1: Carnivores. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
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