Mongoose — A mongoose is a member of the family Herpestidae, a family of small cat-like carnivores. The word mongoose is derived from the Marathi word mangus.
Mongooses are widely distributed in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and southern Europe. There are more than thirty species, ranging from one to four feet in length. Some species of mongooses will usually lead solitary lives, seeking out food only for themselves, while others travel in groups, known as mongaggles. In these larger groups, they will tend to cooperate and share food amongst themselves. Mongooses mostly feed on insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, snakes, chickens, and rodents. However, they will also eat eggs and carrion. Some species, such as the Indian mongoose, are popularly used to fight and kill venomous snakes, even king cobras. They are able to do this because of their agility and cunning, and their thick coat, but typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming their meat.
Some species of mongoose can be easily domesticated, are fairly intelligent, and can be taught simple tricks, so they are often kept as pets to protect home from vermin. However, they can be more destructive than desired; when imported into the West Indies for the purpose of killing rats and snakes, they destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna. For this reason, it is illegal to import most species of mongoose into the United States, Australia and other countries. Mongooses were introduced to Hawaii in 1883, and have had a significant impact on native species.
The mongoose emits a high pitched noise, commonly known as giggling, when it mates. The giggling is also a form of courtship when this animal is choosing a mate.
The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) is sometimes held as an example of a solitary mongoose, though they have been observed to work in groups also.
The meerkat or suricate (Suricata suricatta) lives in troops of 20 to 30 consisting of an alpha male and female, usually together with their siblings and offspring, in open country in Southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa). Meerkats are small, diurnal mammals foraging for invertebrates in open country. Their behaviour and small size (they weigh less than one kilogram) makes them very vulnerable to larger carnivores and birds of prey. However, the meerkat has been known to eat small birds that migrate through Southern Africa. To protect the foraging troops from predators, one meerkat serves as a sentinel — climbing to an exposed vantage point and scanning the surroundings for danger. If the sentinel detects a predator it gives a loud alarm call to warn the troop and indicate if the threat comes from the air or the ground. If from the air, the meerkats rush as fast as they can to the nearest hole. If from the ground, the troop flees but not quite so fast as meerkats are more able to evade terrestrial predators than airborne raptors.