Liberian mongoose (Liberiictis kuhni)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyHerpestidae
GenusLiberiictis (1)
SizeMale head-body length: c. 42.3 cm (2)
Female head-body length: c. 47.8 cm (2)
Male tail length: c. 19.7 cm (2)
Female tail length: c. 20.5 cm (2)
Male weight: c. 2.3 kg (2)

The Liberian mongoose is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Liberian mongoose (Liberiictis kuhni) is a medium-sized mongoose that was only described relatively recently (2). This elusive, forest-dwelling species was first discovered in 1958, when skull samples collected in Liberia were found to differ from those of other mongoose species (3). It was noticed that the skull of the Liberian mongoose was larger and more elongated compared to those of known species, and the teeth were proportionally smaller and weaker (4), which is likely to be an adaptation to a diet of earthworms (5). The skulls also showed that the Liberian mongoose has 40 teeth, compared to 36 in other closely related species (5).

The physical appearance of the Liberian mongoose remained a mystery until 1974, when the first dead specimens were collected (3). Compared to related mongoose species, the Liberian mongoose is larger (3), with longer ears and a more pointed nose. Its long front claws suggest that this species exhibits burrowing behaviour (4).

The entire body of the Liberian mongoose is covered in dark brown fur, and two light brown stripes divided by a blackish-brown stripe extend down the neck from the ear to the shoulder. The tail is bushy, and becomes gradually narrower towards the tip. Both the male and female are similar in appearance (2).

As its common name suggests, the Liberian mongoose was first discovered in Liberia, where it has been observed in north-eastern areas including Gbi National Forest and Nimba County (2).

It has since been found in Côte D’Ivoire (6), and it is possible that the range of the Liberian mongoose extends into southern Guinea (2).

The Liberian mongoose is a ground-dwelling species, which lives in burrows at the base of trees (4). It can be found in swamps and streambeds in both primary and secondary forest (1). Suitable habitat may be limited to areas where the soil is deep and sandy (2).

Knowledge of the Liberian mongoose is still fairly limited. The first live specimen was not seen until 1989 (5), when a single adult male was captured and taken into captivity at Toronto Zoo (2). Unfortunately, subsequent field work has been prevented by civil war in Liberia (3).

The Liberian mongoose is known to be insectivorous, and has long claws, an elongated snout and small teeth, which are well adapted for feeding on insects (4). It uses its claws to dig for worms and other invertebrates underground, or in the heads of dead palm trees (2) (3).

Being a social species, the Liberian mongoose is often found in groups of four to six individuals, although groups may occasionally be larger (5). It shows social characteristics similar to those of other small mongoose species, including the kusimanse (Crossarchus obscurus) and the common dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula), although it is most closely related to the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) (5).

While the exact duration of the breeding season is unknown, sightings of juveniles in July and August suggest that breeding occurs during the rainy season, from May onwards. This is likely to be a result of the more abundant food sources during this period (2).

Like many forest-dwelling animals, the Liberian mongoose is threatened by deforestation, which results in habitat loss. The use of pesticides on agricultural land within rainforests also presents a threat to this species, as harmful toxins may build up in the earthworms that the mongoose feeds on (1).

The Liberian mongoose will occasionally take small domestic animals such as chickens, and is therefore sometimes hunted as a form of pest control and for food (2) (7).

Human disturbance as a result of civil war across its range may have also had a detrimental effect on this species, as well as hindering attempts to study it (3). Though it is difficult to obtain reliable population size estimates, it is generally thought that populations of the Liberian mongoose appear to be declining (1).

There are currently no specific conservation measures in place to protect the Liberian mongoose (1).

For more information on the conservation of mongooses and other small carnivores:

For more information on conservation in Liberia:

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:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Goldman, C. & Taylor, M. (1990) Liberiictis kuhni. Mammalian Species, 348: 1-3.
  3. Taylor, M. (1992) The Liberian mongoose. Oryx,26: 103-106.
  4. Schlitter, D. (1974) Notes on the Liberian Mongoose, Liberiictis kuhni Hayman, 1958. Journal of Mammalogy, 55: 438-442.
  5. Veron, G., Colyn, M., Dunham, A., Taylor, P. & Gaubert, P. (2004) Molecular systematics and origin of sociality in mongooses (Herpestidae, Carnivora). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 30: 582-593.
  6. Colyn, M., Barriere, P., Formenty, P., Perpete, O. & van Rompaey, H. (1998) First confirmation of the presence of the Liberian mongoose, Liberiictis kuhni, in Côte d'Ivoire. Small Carnivore Conservation, 18: 12-14.
  7. Hildyard, A. (2001). Endangered Plants and Animals of the World. Marshall Cavendish, New York.