Overview

Distribution

Poecilogale albinucha is found throughout sub-saharan Africa but is rare throughout its range.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range Description

Ranges from south-western Uganda and Kenya to the Eastern Cape in South Africa (Stuart and Stuart in press). Because of its secretive nature it has probably been overlooked in many areas, especially in light of records from locations that were previously considered unsuitable (Stuart and Stuart in press). Recorded to 2,300 m asl in Malawi (Medland and Dudley 1995).
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Physical Description

Morphology

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.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

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

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Mainly found in savanna associations, although they probably have a wide habitat tolerance and have been recorded from lowland rainforest, semi-desert grassland, and fynbos (Stuart and Stuart in press). Road kills have been collected from areas of cultivated fields.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

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).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.2 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
5.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals, but one wild born couple was still living in captivity at about 6 years of age (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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).

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Stuart, C., Stuart, T. & Hoffmann, M.

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern since although the species occurs at relatively low densities across its wide distribution range, they have been found to have a wide habitat tolerance, face no known major threats, and are present in several protected areas.
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Population

Population
Rare to uncommon, with highest densities reached in moist higher rainfall grasslands (Stuart and Stuart in press).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to the species. However, Cunningham and Zondi (1991) regarded this species as one of the most-used animals in traditional medicine, and in parts of its range the skins are commonly used by traditional healers and sangomas as a good luck charm.
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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

The striped weasel may kill chickens that are being raised by humans (Nowak 1997).

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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).

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Wikipedia

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.

Description[edit]

The African striped weasel is one of the smallest mammalian carnivores in Africa, and has an elongated body and short legs. Adults have a head-body length of 27 to 32 cm (11 to 13 in), with the tail adding a further 16 to 20 cm (6.3 to 7.9 in). Males are larger than females, weighing an average of 339 g (12.0 oz), compared with 251 g (8.9 oz). The fur is mostly black, with four white to pale yellowish bands running down the back, a white patch on the top of the head, and a white tail.[2]

The head is elongated, with small eyes, a short, broad snout, and short ears. The carnassial teeth are short, an the canine teeth long. The claws are sharp and curved, and the tail is long and bushy. Females typically have four teats. Like many other mustelids, the African striped weasel has well-developed scent glands in the perineal region that can spray a noxious fluid when the animal feels threatened.[2]

Skull

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Africa striped weasels inhabit much of Africa south of the equator. They are found from the Democratic Republic of the Congo across to Kenya in the north, and as far south as southern South Africa. Within this region, they are most common in savannah habitats, but may also be found in forests and grasslands.[1] They commonly live below 1,500 m (4,900 ft) elevation, but may occasionally be found as high as 2,200 m (7,200 ft).[2]

Behaviour[edit]

African striped weasels are nocturnal hunters of small mammals, birds, and reptiles, but feed almost entirely on rodents of their own size or smaller.[3] The weasels hunt primarily by scent, attacking prey with a sudden lunge and striking at the back of the neck. After the initial strike, they kill by whipping their own body and kicking, making use of their thin, lithe, muscular build to stun and tear the prey item.[3] They sometimes stores its prey in their burrow instead of eating it immediately.

The weasel is generally solitary,[3] but individuals sometimes pair up to dig burrows.[2] They are effective diggers, but may sometimes rest in natural cavities such as hollow logs or rock crevices. They deposit dung in well-defined latrines locations, possibly as a means of scent marking.[2] Males are aggressive when they encounter one another, at first fluffing their tails, making short cries, and fake charges, and then escalating to fighting with bites, shaking, and aggressive shrieks if neither individual retreats.[2]

African striped weasels have been identified as making six different types of call. Apart from the warning and aggressive calls mentioned above, and a third call that transitions between the two, there is a call that signals submission of a retreating male, a call that indicates surrender during a fight, and a greeting call used only between males and females and between young and their mother. Young weasels also make distress calls when separated from their mother.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

Mating occurs between spring and summer, and includes at least three bouts of copulation, each lasting 60 to 80 minutes, in a single 24-hour period.[2][5] Females give birth to a single litter of two or three young after a gestation period of 30 days.[2]

The young are born in a burrow, and are initially blind and hairless, weighing just 4 g (0.14 oz) each. Their canine teeth erupt at five weeks, and their eyes open after seven weeks. By eleven weeks of age, they are weaned, and they start killing their own prey at thirteen weeks. They reach the full adult size at 20 weeks, and are sexually mature at eight months.[5]

In folklore[edit]

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."[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Stuart, C., Stuart, T. & Hoffmann, M. (2008). "Poecilogale albinucha". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Larivière, S. (2001). "Poecilogale albinucha". Mammalian Species: Number 681: pp. 1–4. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2001)681<0001:PA>2.0.CO;2. 
  3. ^ a b c Rowe, D.T. (1978). "Comparative prey capture and food studies of South African mustelines". Mammalia 42 (2): 175–196. doi:10.1515/mamm.1978.42.2.175. 
  4. ^ Channing, A. & Rowe, D.T. (1977). "Vocalizations of South African mustelines". Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 44 (3): 283–293. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1977.tb00996.x. 
  5. ^ a b Rowe, D.T. (1978). "Reproduction and postnatal development of South African mustelines (Carnivores: Mustelidae)". Zoologica Africana 13 (1): 103–114. 
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