Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Widely distributed from Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone eastward to southern Sudan and Ethiopia and south to southern Africa, where absent from most of Namibia, Botswana and large parts of C South Africa, wherever adequate water and cover are unavailable (Baker and Ray in press). Present on Pemba Island, but absent from Zanzibar (Pakenham 1984). Recorded to altitudes of 3,950 m in Bale Mountains N.P., Ethiopia (Yalden et al. 1996). Wozencraft (2005) lists this species as occurring in Algeria, presumably an error as there are no confirmed records from this country.
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Geographic Range

The Marsh Mongoose is widely distributed over all the better-watered parts of Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

This medium-sized dark-brown animal is one of the more highly specialized mongooses. The neck, body and tail are covered with thick, shaggy fur while the fur on the hands and feet is short and sleek. The hand are extremely soft and sensitive and the thumb functions as a passive prop, enhancing the animal's purchase on a slippery surface. The premolar teeth are stout and used for crushing hard foods and the lower canines are particularly well-developed.

Range mass: 2.5 to 4.1 kg.

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Type Information

Type for Atilax paludinosus
Catalog Number: USNM 19775
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): W. Abbott
Year Collected: 1889
Locality: Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa
Elevation (m): 1219
  • Type: Hollister, N. 1912 Jan 23. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 25: 1.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Mainly restricted to riparian habitats (rivers, streams, swamps, marshes and dams), wherever there is suitable vegetation cover and water in close proximity. They may also be found along estuaries and in coastal areas. Sometimes found away from watercourses, though only for limited periods (Baker and Ray in press). Diet comprises mostly aquatic prey with crustaceans usually dominating, which is unusual among herpestids (Baker and Ray in press).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Mongooses range from sea level up to 2,500 meters, but they prefer swampy vegetation bordering rivers and lakes. There are records of mongooses inhabiting hilly regions where there is little water and no aquatic fauna to feed on. Marsh mongooses are an important member of the small community of animals specially adapted to Papyrus swamps. Due to the deoxygenated water of the Papyrus swamp, only air breathing fish, frogs, insect larvae, snails, and mongooses inhabit the region.

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

This versatile, omnivorous mongoose exploits a wide range of swampy conditions where many kinds of food are found. Freshwater crabs, mussels and snails are major foods; reptiles and birds and their eggs, large insects and their larvae, millipedes and various fruits also constitute part of the diet. These mongooses investigate every hole or crevice along river banks often finding hidden crabs or frogs. When they are looking for food in ponds they patiently and systematically work their hands through the mud and water. While foraging, the mongoose often holds its head out of the water. The sifting motion of the hands is rapid and continous until food is located. Once an item is found, it is pulled out of the water and may be taken relatively slowly into the mouth. If the prey strugggles, it is killed with a bite. Any hard objects such as mussels, crabs and eggs are hurled down with considerable force to break open the shell.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
17.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
17.4 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 20.8 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Little is known about their sexual behavior, but it is known that they breed twice a year, once in the middle of the dry season and once in the rains. The female prepares a nest of dry grass in a hole. If there are no holes available in swampy areas, the young are raised on a nest of reeds, grass, and sticks . Up to three young per litter have been recorded. Sometimes a second adult also accompanies the family. The young usually are weaned and depart from their birthplace in a few months.

Average birth mass: 100 g.

Average gestation period: 76 days.

Average number of offspring: 2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
255 days.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Atilax paludinosus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hoffmann, M. & Ray, J.

Reviewer/s
Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) and Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Least Concern since it has a wide distribution range, is generally common where in suitable habitat, present in several protected areas, and there is no reason to believe the species is declining at a rate fast enough to warrant listing in a higher category of threat.
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With a fairly wide distribution and large populations, these animals seem unlikely to become endangered soon.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Generally common in suitable habitat. It was the second most photographed species in a camera-trapping study in the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania (De Luca and Mpunga 2005). In KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the density was recorded at 1.8 / km² (Maddock 1988).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
There are currently no major threats known to the species. However, since it is dependent on riverine vegetation for shelter, the loss of this habitat may result in some localized declines where habitat loss is taking place (Baker and Ray in press). The drainage of swamplands for conversion to arable land has been identified as a threat to Marsh Mongooses in eastern Africa (Andama 2000). The Marsh Mongoose is commonly found in bushmeat markets, and was the most common carnivore appearing in bushmeat markets in SE Nigeria (Angelici et al. 1999) and was also commonly recorded in bushmeat surveys in the Classified Forest of Diecke, Guinea (Colyn et al. 2004).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is present in several protected areas across its range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

They become very tame when caught young and are clean and easy to keep.

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