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MammalMAP: Striped polecats

Q: What is black, white, striped and cute all over?

A: A striped polecat

These adorable bundles of fur are also known as African polecats or to our purveyors of Latin, Ictonyx striatus. This mammal has a skunk-like appearance. It is mostly black with four prominent white stripes running from its head to its tail. Striped polecats are small – typically 60 cm including a tail that makes up a third of their length. The IUCN classifies striped polecats as a species of least concern as they are common in their distribution range and have relatively few threats.

Now before you decide to pick up a striped polecat, a word of warning. When these little tykes are annoyed or harassed, they emit the most foul-smelling anal secretion. The Guinness Book of Animal Records claims a striped polecat used its unique ‘cologne’ to keep nine lions at bay while it scavenged their kill. Maybe it was a distant relative of Looney Tunes’ Pepé Le Pew?

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