Yellow mongoose

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Yellow mongoose
Cynictis penicillata (Etosha, 2011).jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Cynictis
Ogilby, 1833
C. penicillata
Binomial name
Cynictis penicillata
(Cuvier, 1829)
Yellow Mongoose area.png
Yellow mongoose range

The yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), 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.


Yellow mongoose in Klipriviersberg, Johannesburg Yellow Mongoose Klipriviersberg Johannesburg.jpg
Yellow mongoose in Klipriviersberg, Johannesburg


Herpestes penicillatus was the scientific name proposed by Georges Cuvier in 1829 for a mongoose specimen from the Cape. [2] The generic name Cynictis was proposed by William Ogilby in 1833 for a specimen collected in Kaffraria. [3] Cynictis penicillata is the only member of the genus, but as many as twelve subspecies of yellow mongoose have been described. [4]


In general, the yellow mongoose has lighter highlights on the underbelly and chin, a bushy tail, and a complete lack of sexual dimorphism. Southern yellow mongooses are larger, have yellow or reddish fur, longer fur, and a longer tail with a characteristic white tip. Northern subspecies tend towards smaller size, grey colouration, a grey or darker grey tip to the tail, and shorter hair more appropriate to the hotter climate.

Behaviour and ecology

Yellow mongoose Fuchsmanguste 2.jpg
Yellow mongoose

The yellow mongoose is primarily diurnal, though nocturnal activity has been observed. Living in colonies of up to 20 individuals in a permanent burrow complex, the yellow mongoose will often co-exist with Cape ground squirrels or suricates and share maintenance of the warren, adding new tunnels and burrows as necessary. The tunnel system has many entrances, nearby which the yellow mongoose makes its latrines.

The yellow mongoose is a carnivore, feeding mostly on termites, grasshoppers and crickets, but also on rodents and small birds. In urban environments in South Africa, it also forages among human food garbage. [5]

Social structure

A yellow mongoose in Lake District Wildlife Park, Cumbria, northwestern England Cynictis penicillata, Lake District Wildlife Park.jpg
A yellow mongoose in Lake District Wildlife Park, Cumbria, northwestern England

The social structure of the yellow mongoose is hierarchical, based around a central breeding pair and their most recent offspring. There are also subadults, the elderly, or adult relatives of the central pair. Male ranges tend to overlap, while females from other dens have contiguous non-overlapping ranges. Every day, the alpha male will mark members of his group with anal gland secretions, and his boundaries with facial and anal secretions, as well as urine. The alpha male also rubs his back against raised objects, leaving behind hair as a visual marker of territory. Other members of the group mark their dens with cheek secretions. A colony can have 20-40 members.


Predators of the yellow mongoose are birds of prey, snakes and jackals. When frightened, the yellow mongoose will growl and secrete from its anal glands. It can also scream, bark, and purr, though these are exceptions, as the yellow mongoose is usually silent, and communicates mood and status through tail movements.


Yellow mongooses mating Cynictis penicillata mating2.jpg
Yellow mongooses mating

The yellow mongoose's mating season is between July and September, and it gives birth underground between October and December, with no bedding material, in a clean chamber of the burrow system. Usually, two offspring are produced per pregnancy, and they are weaned at 10 weeks, reaching adult size after 10 months.


There is some concern about the yellow mongoose's role as a natural reservoir of rabies. Most African wild animals die within several weeks of infection with rabies, but it seems that certain genetic strains of the yellow mongoose can carry it asymptomatically, but infectiously, for years. [6]

Related Research Articles

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Marsh mongoose species of mammal

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Stripe-necked mongoose species of mammal

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Egyptian mongoose Species of mammal

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Slender mongoose species of mammal

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Cape gray mongoose species of mammal

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Indian grey mongoose species of mammal

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Javan mongoose Species of mammal

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Ruddy mongoose Species of mammal

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White-tailed mongoose species of mammal

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Cape ground squirrel Species of mammal

The Cape ground squirrel or South African ground squirrel is found in most of the drier parts of southern Africa from South Africa, through to Botswana, and into Namibia, including Etosha National Park.

Anne Rasa British ethologist

Olwen Anne Elisabeth Rasa is a British Ethologist, who rendered outstanding services to the knowledge of the social behavior of Dwarf mongoose.


  1. Do Linh San, E.; Cavallini, P. & Taylor, P. (2015). "Cynictis penicillata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . IUCN. 2015: e.T41597A45205726.
  2. Cuvier, G. (1829). "Les Mangoustes. Cuv. (Herpestes, Illiger)". Le règne animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base à l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction à l'anatomie comparée. Paris: Chez Déterville. pp. 157–158.
  3. Ogilby, W. (1833). "Characters of a new Genus of carnivorous Mammalia from the collection of Mr. Steedman". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (Part 1): 48–49.
  4. Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Species Cynictis penicillata". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 564. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  5. Cronk, E.; Pillay, N. (2019). "Flexible Use of Urban Resources by the Yellow Mongoose Cynictis penicillata". Animals. 9 (7): 447. doi: 10.3390/ani9070447 .
  6. Taylor, P.J. (1993). "A systematic and population genetic approach to the rabies problem in the yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata)" (PDF). Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research. 60 (4): 379–387. PMID   7777324.

Further reading