The animal's body is sleek and long, and has very short legs (Kingdon 1977). The head and body measure 250-360mm, and the tail is 130-230mm. Males may weigh 283-380 grams, and females may weigh 230-290 grams (Nowak 1997). Individuals from western Uganda have been found to be slightly larger than those from areas further east and south. The legs and underside of the animal are covered in black fur. The top of the head is white, continuing in a thick stripe down the back where there are both black and white longitudinal stripes, and the tail is totally white. In captive individuals, the white stripe color may vary from light yellow to deep buff. It looks very similar to, and is often confused with, the zorilla (/Ictonyx striatus/), and it is argued that it may be a mimic (Kingdon 1977). Females have two pairs of mammae (Nowak 1997).
Range mass: 230 to 380 g.
Habitat and Ecology
The striped weasel may be found in a variety of different habitats. It has been found in forest edge, grassland, and marsh regions (Nowak 1997). Generally, they are found in regions that support their main prey, small mammals (Kingdon).
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
The striped weasel is carnivorous. It eats mainly small mammals (rodents, rats, mole rats, etc.) and birds, but also eats snakes and insects (Nowak 1997, Smithers 1966). It is able to enter any burrow that its head can fit into. Once a prey is found, it attacks by biting the back of the neck, and continues to hang on and chew until the prey is dead (Nowak 1997). To do this it relies greatly on the power of its long back. It is said that "The weasel bites its victim, usually a rodent, at the back of the neck and, rolling over on to its back, clamps part of the rat or mouse between its jaws and forepaws, meanwhile racking the victim's body with well co-ordinated kicks that are discharged by means of the powerful spasms of the weasel's long back." (Kingdon 1977). If the prey's legs happen to be free, the striped weasel will hang on until the animal drops from exhaustion (Nowak 1997). They have a large appetite and may eat 3-4 rats in a night. They are selective about what body parts they will eat. For instance, captive individuals usually do not eat the head, tail, legs, and dorsal skin of larger rodents (Kingdon 1977).
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 5.2 years.
Status: captivity: 5.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Births of captive animals were found to occur from September to April (Nowak 1977). Their courtship patterns are thought to be similar to the ferret (/Mustela putorius/), and involves much growling. Both sexes have been found to grab the mates neck and drag it around like it were a prey (Kingdon 1977). The females are polyestrous. If their first litter is lost, they will mate a second time in the season. Litters consist of 1-3 young, and the gestation period is 31-33 days. Young are fully weaned at about 11 weeks, and nearly full grown at 20 weeks. A male may mate at 33 months, and a female may have her first litter at 19 months (Nowak 1997).
Average birth mass: 4 g.
Average gestation period: 32 days.
Average number of offspring: 2.2.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 439 days.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The striped weasel inhabits a wide range throughout Africa, but its numbers are not very great. Nonetheless, it is not considered to be endangered (Shortridge 1934) (Nowak 1997)(WCMC).
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
The striped weasel may kill chickens that are being raised by humans (Nowak 1997).
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
The striped weasel is beneficial to humans because of the service they provide by killing rats, mice, springhares, locusts and their larvae, all of which may damage crops.
Additionally, their skins are used by some African tribes in ceremonial costumes or ornaments. They are also used in rituals performed by shamans (Nowak 1997).
African striped weasel
The African striped weasel (Poecilogale albinucha), the lone member of its genus, is a small, black and white weasel native to sub-Saharan Africa. It looks very much like a striped polecat, but it is much thinner and has shorter hair. It is a sleek, black color with a white tail and four white stripes running down its back. It is 50 cm (20 in) in length on average, including its tail of 20 cm (7.9 in).
The African striped weasel lives in forests, wetlands, and grasslands. It is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals, birds, and reptiles. The weasel kills its prey by whipping its own body and kicking, making use of its thin, lithe, muscular body to stun and tear the prey item. It sometimes stores its prey in its burrow instead of eating it immediately. Like skunks and polecats, the weasel emits a noxious fluid from its anal glands when it feels threatened. The weasel is generally solitary, but individuals have been found sharing burrows. According to African folklore, if one cuts off the nose of a weasel, it will grow back two shades lighter in colour, but it will bring misfortune to your family and lead to a poor harvest. This myth gave birth to expression "A weasel's nose is not to be trifled with."
|Wikispecies has information related to: Poecilogale albinucha|
- P. albinucha at Animal Diversity
- Nowak, Ronald M. (2005). Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 0-8018-8032-7
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