Egyptian mongoose

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Egyptian mongoose
Temporal range: Pleistocene–Present
Herpestes ichneumon Egipetskii mangust, ili faraonova krysa, ili ikhnevmon.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Herpestes
H. ichneumon
Binomial name
Herpestes ichneumon
Egyptian Mongoose area.png
Egyptian mongoose range
(green – native, red – possibly introduced)

Viverra ichneumonLinnaeus, 1758

The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon), also known as ichneumon, is a mongoose species native to the Iberian Peninsula, coastal regions along the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Turkey, tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands in Africa. Because of its widespread occurrence, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. [1]



Egyptian mongoose skull Herpestesichneumonskull.png
Egyptian mongoose skull

The Egyptian mongoose's long, coarse fur is grey to reddish brown and ticked with brown and yellow flecks. Its snout is pointed, its ears are small. Its slender body is 48–60 cm (1 ft 7 in–2 ft 0 in) long with a 33–54 cm (1 ft 1 in–1 ft 9 in) long black tipped tail. Its hind feet and a small area around the eyes are furless. It has 35–40 teeth, with highly developed carnassials, used for shearing meat. It weighs 1.7–4 kg (3.7–8.8 lb). [2]

Sexually dimorphic Egyptian mongooses were observed in Portugal, where some females are smaller than males. [3]

Distribution and habitat

The Egyptian mongoose lives in swampy and marshy habitats near streams, rivers, lakes and in coastal areas. Where it inhabits maquis shrubland in the Iberian Peninsula, it prefers areas close to rivers with dense vegetation. It does not occur in deserts. [2]

It has been recorded in Portugal from north of the Douro River to the south, and in Spain from the central plateau, Andalucía to the Strait of Gibraltar. [4] [5]

In North Africa, it occurs along the coast from Western Sahara to Tunisia, and from northern Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula. [1] In Egypt, one individual was observed in Faiyum Oasis in 1993. In the same year, its tracks were recorded in sand dunes close to the coast near Sidi Barrani. [6] An individual was observed on an island in Lake Burullus in the Nile Delta during an ecological survey in the late 1990s. [7] In the Palestinian territories, it was recorded in the Gaza Strip and Jericho Governorate in the West Bank during surveys carried out between 2012 and 2016. [8] In western Syria, it was observed in the Latakia Governorate between 1989 and 1995; taxidermied specimens were offered in local shops. [9] In southern Turkey, it was recorded in the Hatay and Adana Provinces. [10]

In Sudan, it is present in the vicinity of human settlements along the Rahad River and in Dinder National Park. [11] It was also recorded in the Dinder–Alatash protected area complex during surveys between 2015 and 2018. [12] In Ethiopia, the Egyptian mongoose was recorded at altitudes of 2,000–3,000 metres (6,600–9,800 ft) in the Ethiopian Highlands. [13] [14]

In Senegal, it was observed in 2000 in Niokolo-Koba National Park, which mainly encompasses open habitat dominated by grasses. [15] In Guinea’s National Park of Upper Niger, the occurrence of the Egyptian mongoose was first documented during surveys in spring 1997. Surveyors found dead individuals on bushmeat markets in villages located in the vicinity of the park. [16]

In Gabon’s Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, it was recorded only in savanna habitats. [17] In the Republic of Congo, it was repeatedly observed in the Western Congolian forest–savanna mosaic of Odzala-Kokoua National Park during surveys in 2007. [18]

In the 1990s, it was considered a common species in Tanzania's Mkomazi National Park. [19]

Occurrence in Iberian Peninsula

Several hypotheses were proposed to explain the occurrence of the Egyptian mongoose in the Iberian Peninsula:

Behaviour and ecology

The Egyptian mongoose is active during the day Herpestes ichneumon - Egyptian Mongoose.JPG
The Egyptian mongoose is active during the day

The Egyptian mongoose is diurnal. [23] In Doñana National Park, single Egyptian mongooses, pairs and groups of up to five individuals were observed. Adult males showed territorial behaviour, and shared their home ranges with one or several females. The home ranges of adult females overlapped to some degree, except in core areas where they raised their offspring. [24]

It preys on rodents, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. It also feeds on fruit and eggs. To crack eggs open, it throws them between its legs against a rock or wall. [2] In Doñana National Park, 30 Egyptian mongooses were radio-tracked in 1985 and their faeces collected. These samples contained remains of European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), sand lizards ( Psammodromus ), Iberian spadefoot toad ( Pelobates cultripes ), greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula), three-toed skink ( Chalcides chalcides ), dabbling ducks ( Anas ), western cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), wild boar (Sus scrofa) meat, Algerian mouse (Mus spretus) and rat species ( Rattus ). [25] Research in southeastern Nigeria revealed that it also feeds on giant pouched rats (Cricetomys), Temminck's mouse (Mus musculoides), Tullberg's soft-furred mouse (Praomys tulbergi), Nigerian shrew (Crocidura nigeriae), Hallowell's toad (Amietophrynus maculatus), African brown water snake (Afronatrix anoscopus), and Mabuya skinks. [26] It attacks and feeds on venomous snakes, and is resistant to the venom of Palestine viper ( Daboia palaestinae ), black desert cobra ( Walterinnesia aegyptia ) and black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis). [27]

In Spain, it has been recorded less frequently in areas where the Iberian lynx was reintroduced. [28]


Captive males and females reach sexual maturity at the age of two years. [29] In Doñana National Park, courtship and mating happens in spring between February and June. Two to three pups are born between mid April and mid August after a gestation of 11 weeks. [30] They are hairless at first, and open their eyes after about a week. Females take care of them for up to one year, occasionally also longer. They start foraging on their own at the age of four months, but compete for food brought back to them after that age. In the wild, Egyptian mongooses probably reach 12 years of age. A captive Egyptian mongoose was over 20 years old. [2] Its generation length is 7.5 years. [31]


In 1758, Carl Linnaeus described an Egyptian mongoose from the area of the Nile River in Egypt in his work Systema Naturae and gave it the scientific name Viverra ichneumon. [32] H. i. ichneumon (Linnaeus, 1758) is the nominate subspecies. The following zoological specimen were described between the late 18th century and the early 1930s as subspecies: [33]

In 1811, Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger subsumed the ichneumon to the genus Herpestes . [44]


A survey of poaching methods in Israel carried out in autumn 2000 revealed that the Egyptian mongoose is affected by snaring in agricultural areas. Most of the traps found were set up by Thai guest workers. [45] Numerous dried heads of Egyptian mongooses were found in 2007 at the Dantokpa Market in southern Benin, suggesting that it is used as fetish in animal rituals. [46]


The Egyptian mongoose is listed on Appendix III of the Berne Convention, and Annex V of the European Union Habitats and Species Directive. [1] In Israel, wildlife is protected by law, and hunting allowed only with a permit. [45]

Cultural references

Mummified remains of four Egyptian mongooses were excavated in the catacombs of Anubis at Saqqara during works started in 2009. [47] At the cemetery of Beni Hasan, an Egyptian mongoose on a leash is depicted in the tomb of Baqet I dating to the Eleventh Dynasty of Egypt. [48]

The American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem as an elegy for an ichneumon, which had been brought to Haverhill Academy in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1830. The long lost poem was published in the November 20, 1902, issue of "The Independent" Magazine.[ citation needed ] In Christopher Smart's poem, Jubilate Agno , the poet's cat Jeoffry was praised in line 63: "For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land," for a purported attack on an Egyptian mongoose.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mongoose A family of mammals in Africa and Asia

A mongoose is a small terrestrial carnivorous mammal belonging to the family Herpestidae. This family is currently split into two subfamilies, the Herpestinae and the Mungotinae. The Herpestinae comprises 23 living species that are native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, whereas the Mungotinae comprises 11 species native to Africa. The Herpestidae originated about 21.8 ± 3.6 million years ago in the Early Miocene and genetically diverged into two main genetic lineages between 19.1 and 18.5 ± 3.5 million years ago.

Viverridae family of mammals

Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids, comprising 15 genera, which are subdivided into 38 species. This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821. Viverrids occur all over Africa, southern Europe, and South and Southeast Asia, across the Wallace Line. Their occurrence in Sulawesi and in some of the adjoining islands shows them to be ancient inhabitants of the Old World tropics.

Iberian lynx Small wild cat

The Iberian lynx is a wild cat species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In the 20th century, the Iberian lynx population had declined because of overhunting and poaching, fragmentation of suitable habitats; the population of its main prey species, the European rabbit, experienced a severe decline caused by myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

National Park of Upper Niger protected area in Guinea Conakri

The National Park of Upper Niger is a national park in Guinea that was gazetted in January 1997 with a core area of 554 km2 (214 sq mi). The park protects important tracts of forest and savannah, and is considered a conservation priority for West Africa as a whole.

Striped polecat species of mammal

The striped polecat - also called the African polecat, zoril, zorille, zorilla, Cape polecat, and African skunk - is a member of the family Mustelidae that resembles a skunk. The name "zorilla" comes from the word "zorro", which in Spanish means "fox". It lives predominantly in dry and arid climates, such as the savannahs and open country of Central, Southern, and sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the Congo basin and the more coastal areas of West Africa.

<i>Panthera leo leo</i> Lion subspecies

Panthera leo leo is a lion subspecies, which is present in West Africa, northern Central Africa and India. In West and Central Africa it is restricted to fragmented and isolated populations with a declining trajectory. It has been referred to as the 'Northern lion'.

Yellow mongoose species of mammal

The yellow mongoose, sometimes referred to as the red meerkat, is a member of the mongoose family. It averages about 1 lb (1/2 kg) in weight and about 20 in (500 mm) in length. It lives in open country, from semi-desert scrubland to grasslands in Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Marsh mongoose species of mammal

The marsh mongoose is a medium-sized mongoose native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it inhabits foremost freshwater wetlands. It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

Stripe-necked mongoose species of mammal

The stripe-necked mongoose is a mongoose species native to forests and shrublands from southern India to Sri Lanka.

Genet (animal) genus of mammals

A genet is a member of the genus Genetta, which consists of 14 to 17 species of small African carnivorans. The common genet is the only genet present in Europe and occurs in the Iberian Peninsula and France.

Common genet species of mammal

The common genet is a small viverrid indigenous to Africa that was introduced to southwestern Europe and the Balearic Islands. It is widely distributed north of the Sahara, in savanna zones south of the Sahara to southern Africa and along the coast of Arabia, Yemen and Oman. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Crab-eating mongoose species of mammal

The crab-eating mongoose is a mongoose species ranging from the northeastern Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to southern China and Taiwan. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Indian grey mongoose species of mammal

The Indian grey mongoose is a mongoose species native to the Indian subcontinent and West Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The grey mongoose inhabits open forests, scrublands and cultivated fields, often close to human habitation. It lives in burrows, hedgerows and thickets, among groves of trees, and takes shelter under rocks or bushes and even in drains. It is very bold and inquisitive but wary, seldom venturing far from cover. It climbs very well. Usually found singly or in pairs. It preys on rodents, snakes, birds’ eggs and hatchlings, lizards and variety of invertebrates. Along the Chambal River it occasionally feeds on gharial eggs. It breeds throughout the year.

Javan mongoose Species of mammal

The Javan mongoose or small Indian mongoose is a mongoose species native to South and Southeast Asia that has also been introduced to many regions of the world.

Long-nosed mongoose species of mammal

The long-nosed mongoose is a mongoose native to Central African wetlands and rainforests. It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

White-tailed mongoose species of mammal

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<i>Herpestes</i> genus of mammals

Herpestes is a genus within the mongoose family Herpestidae. It is the type genus of the family and comprises ten living species, with a number of subspecies, and one extinct species.


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