Overview

Comprehensive Description

Summary

"The Indian grey mongoose or common grey mongoose is the common species of mongoose found in southern India. It lives in close proximity to human habitation and although it is bold and inquisitive, it does not venture far from cover."
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Distribution

Range Description

The Indian Grey Mongoose is found from Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Indonesia, and has been introduced on Japan (Corbet and Hill, 1980; Wells 1989; Wozencraft 2005). This species does not occur on the Ryukyu Islands or Mauritius; the possible records on these islands are only confusion with Herpestes javanicus perpetuated in the literature (S. Roy pers. comm.). The species' elevation range is from 0 to approximately 2500 m (Divya Mudappa pers. comm.).
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Geographic Range

Indian gray mongooses (Herpestes edwardsi) occupy coastal area from Arabia to Nepal and downward through Pakistan, India, and Ceylon.

They were introduced to the West Indies, Hawaii, Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico to control poisonous snakes and rats.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); neotropical (Introduced ); oceanic islands (Introduced ); mediterranean sea (Introduced )

  • Ewer, R. F. 1973. The Carnivores. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Bridges, W. 1948. Wild Animals of the World. Garden City, NY: Garden City Books.
  • 1976. Mongoose. Pp. 604 in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 13. Chicago, IL: Field Enterprise Educational Corporation.
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Physical Description

Morphology

"Tawny yellowish-gray, the hairs ringed with rufous and yellowish, the general result being an iron-gray tinge. The muzzle is concolorous with the body, as is the tail, which is not tipped with black, and is nearly equal in length to the body."
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Physical Description

Herpestids have long bodies, short legs and highly developed anal scent glands. Their coats are thick and coarse in texture. Herpestes edwardsi is identified by its silver-grey, salt-and-pepper speckled fur and white-tipped tail.

The head and body are 38 to 46 centimeters long, and the tail is 35 centimeters long. They have 40 teeth. The weight of members of this genus ranges from 0.5 to 4 kg.

Herpestes edwardsi has five toes on fore and hind feet. The hind foot is naked to the heel, but the forefoot has hair to its sharp, curved claws.

Range length: 73 to 81 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

  • Walker, E. 1975. Mammals of the World; 3rd Edition vol. 3. Baltimore, Maryland: Hopkins University Press.
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Size

"Average length, head and body, about 16 to 17 inches ; tail 14. It is said occasionally to reach 20 inches and upwards, with the tail 16.5 inches."
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The habitat and ecology of the Indian Grey Mongoose is known from few studies, however, it has been recorded in disturbed areas, in dry secondary forests, and thorn forests (Shekhar 2003), but seems to be a commensal with humans as well. This species was often recorded near human settlements by Shekhar (2003) in a survey in central India during 2002-03, where it was seen near garbage bins, garbage dumps, scavenging on carrion, and on roads. The species seems to be most common in disturbed areas, in dry secondary forests and thorn forests. This species has been found up to 2,100 m (Corbet and Hill 1992) and feeds on insects and snakes (Santiapillai et al. 2000).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Indian gray mongooses have been observed in areas of thickets, in cultivated fields or in broken, bushy vegetation.

They also occupied open areas, grasslands, and scrub. They sleep in holes in the ground or hollow trees to escape the mid-day sun.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

  • Santiapillai, C., M. De Silva, S. Dissanayake. 2000. The status of mongooses (family: Herpestidae) in Ruhuna National Park, Sri Lanka. The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 97: 208-214.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Indian gray mongooses are opportunistic hunters feeding mainly on mice, rats, lizards, snakes, and beetles. Ground birds, their eggs, and parts of plants: fruits, berries, and roots have become a part of their diet. In India, they have been seen chasing a hare and running away with a cattle egret. In India, the Indian gray mongoose feeds on the eggs and chicks of the red jungle fowl, the peafowl, and the partridges. They have been known to prey in grasslands in search of snakes and small mammals, on beaches in Hawaii, and wading in the water to find food under stones.

They have also been known to prey on grasshoppers, scorpions, centipedes, frogs, crabs, and fish. The mongoose has an elongated skull with specialized teeth for hunting. The incisors form a cutting edge at the front of the mouth, the canines point and protrude allowing it to clamp onto a snake's head, and the molars have pointed cusps for crushing insects.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; aquatic crustaceans

Plant Foods: roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

In their natural environment, Indian grey mongooses prey on ground birds, reptiles, small mammals, and insects. They are therefore likely to affect populations of these animals. Their ability to prey on snakes has been well noted, and they have been introduced to many areas for that purpose.

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Predation

Between hunts, Indian gray mongooses retreat to their burrow, crevices in rocks, or nearby rivers to escape the heat and obtain protection from their largest predator, leopards (Panthera pardus).

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known prey organisms

Herpestes edwardsii preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Actinopterygii
Arthropoda
Crustacea
Insecta
Amphibia
Reptilia
Aves
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known predators

Herpestes edwardsii is prey of:
Panthera pardus

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Behaviour

"It frequents alike the open country and low jungles, being found in dense hedgerows, thickets, holes in banks etc ; and it is very destructive to such birds as frequent the ground. Not unfrequently it gets access to tame pigeons, rabbits, or poultiy, and commits great havoc, sucking the blood only of several. It also hunts for, and devours, the eggs of partridges, quails, and other ground-laying birds ; and it will also kill rats, lizards, and small snakes."
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Communication and Perception

Mongooses have an anal sac used in communication. Males spray only during the mating season. Mongooses display an adapted behavior to deposit the spray at nose height on vertical objects. Indian gray mongooses raise one leg, spraying the urine down the object to be marked. In addition, they may spray high on the object by rearing up on the forepaws into a handstand position and ejecting the secretions. The secretions of the scent glands are potent and can radiate a large distance, like that of the skunk Mephitis mephitis.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The longest a mongoose has been known to live is 12.5 years. They generally live about seven years. The greatest threat to a mongoose's survival is the use of toxic agro-chemicals in farming areas. The government has restricted use around protected areas.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
7 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
7 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.3 years (captivity) Observations: One specimen lived 12.3 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Shetty et al. (1995) observed mating behavior of Indian gray mongooses in captivity. Social hierarchy was evident, and the dominant male and female were observed and reported to mount more often than subordinate animals. There was no significant change in mounting with females in estrus.

Herpestes edwardsi reproduces rapidly, with females giving birth to two or three litters per year. Litters typically contain from 2 to 4 young. The gestation period is 60 to 65 days with parturition occurring in May or June and October to December. Females have four to six mammae.

Breeding interval: Indian gray mongooses breeds two to three times a year.

Breeding season: Copulation occurs in March, August and October.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.

Range gestation period: 60 to 65 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

There was no information available on parental care in Indian gray mongooses. However, as is the case with all mammals, the female nurses her young. Carnivores are typically born altricial, developing in a nest or den of some type. It is reasonable to assume this is true of H. edwardsi.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Ewer, R. F. 1973. The Carnivores. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Walker, E. 1975. Mammals of the World; 3rd Edition vol. 3. Baltimore, Maryland: Hopkins University Press.
  • 1976. Mongoose. Pp. 604 in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 13. Chicago, IL: Field Enterprise Educational Corporation.
  • Shetty, J., G. Shetty, S. Kanakaraj. 1995. Mating behavior of the Indian grey mongoose Herpestes edwardsii edwardsii Geoffroy. The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 92: 26-29.
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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
2011

Assessor/s
Choudhury, A., Wozencraft, C., Muddapa, D., Yonzon, P., Jennings, A. & Geraldine, V.

Reviewer/s
Duckworth , J.W. & Schipper, J.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population and adaptability to human-dominated landscapes, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 2008
    Least Concern
    (IUCN 2008)
  • 2008
    Least Concern
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Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1 Year Published: 2011
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According to Santiapillai (2000), who studied the status of three species of herpestids in Ruhuna National Park, Sri Lanka, Indian gray mongooses have the lowest density of 0.2 per sq. km while the other two species had densities of 2.6 and 0.7. Similar studies in Wilpattu National Park in northwest Sri Lanka found that Herpestes fuscus, not H. edwardsi was the least common in that park. Population studies have been done to check the necessity of conservation and see what can be done to sustain species. Because of the results of studies, the three species of mongoose (Herpestes smithii, H. edwardsi, and Herpestes vitticollis) are protected in Sri Lanka. Their greatest threat is human use of toxic agro-chemicals in farming areas. The government has restricted use around protected areas.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix iii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
This species is thought to be common and abundant throughtout its range. One study in central India, where the species is common, found its abundance even decreased moving from human settlement towards undisturbed forests (Shekhar 2003).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
This species has no major threats occurring across the whole of its range, however, it does experience some regional threats. Shekhar (2003) notes that the grey mongoose is often captured and sold as a pet. Gypsies from northern India use hook snares to capture individuals for skins, which are then sold in local markets in Nepal (Shekhar 2003). All mongoose species are in demand for the wildlife trade (Van Rompaey and Jayakumar 2003): the meat is eaten by several tribes and the hair is used for making shaving brushes, paint brushes, and good luck charms (Hanfee and Ahmed 1999).
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Hunting and trade
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Indian Grey Mongoose is listed on CITES Appendix III in India (Wozencraft 2005). In 2002 in India, the government upgraded the Mongoose species, to Part II of Schedule II of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. In central India people consider the mongoose to be sacred and thus it is not killed there (Shekhar 2003). This species is found in numerous protected areas. Field surveys, ecological studies, habitat protection and monitoring of threats are needed.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

They are uncontrollable and are considered pests outside their natural environment; they are not welcome in many countries. This species was introduced to the West Indies and islands around the United States to get rid of poisonous snakes and rats. They became a pest when they fed on birds and small mammals instead of unwanted animals. Because of the potential pest problem, importation of some species is forbidden in the United States by federal statute.

Indian gray mongooses have been known to carry Toxoplasma gondii, a worldwide zoonotic obligate intracellular protozoan that exists as tachyzoites, tissue cysts, and oocysts. It is the most common infectious protozoan parasite transmitted from non-humans to humans.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease); household pest

  • Dakhil, M., T. Morsy. 1996. Natural toxoplasma infection sought in the Indian grey mongoose (H. edwardsii, Greffroy, 1818) trapped in the eastern region, Saudi Arabia. Journal of the Egyptian Society of Parasitology, 26/3: 645-652.
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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As people found out that mongooses were rat and snake killers, they were domesticated to control rats, mice and snakes in and around houses.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education; controls pest population

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