Ichneumia albicauda occurs throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of the Congo Basin, the Ivory Coast, and the arid regions of western South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Angola. White-tailed mongooses are also found throughout the southern Arabian peninsula. They are fairly common throughout their range and are found in a wide variety of habitats. (Lioncrusher's Domain, 2004)
Ichneumia albicauda is a terrestrial mammal that is found in a wide variety of habitats from woodland to semi-deserts. White-tailed mongooses seem to prefer areas with thick cover, such as forest edges and riparian corridors, and are found mainly in savannah woodlands and grasslands (Nowak 1991, Taylor 1972). White-tailed mongoose are not found in very moist habitats, such as rainforests and swamps, and are also absent from the extremely arid regions of southwestern Africa. These mongooses den in porcupine or aardvark burrows, termite mounds, and holes under roots. (Lioncrusher's Domain, 2004)
White tailed mongooses are relatively large mongooses. Their long yellowish tan hair, and long, black guard hairs make them appear grizzled. The tail is bushy and is white on the terminal half. Hair is lacking on their palms to the wrists and on their upper lip. Females have four mammae.
The author was unable to find information on mating systems in I. albicauda.
Many details about the reproductive cycle of the white-tailed mongoose are not fully known, but some information exists. Females have four mammae (Taylor 1972). Although litter size is uncertain, it is believed to be between 1-3, but some accounts have estimated the litter size to be 2-4, while others claim the size to be 1-2 (Nowak 1991). Litters are frequently seen between February to May, and no young appear during the dry season of August-November. Weaning occurs before nine months of age, at which time full independence is attained (Nowak 1991). The age of sexual maturity is not known, but it is generally thought to occur before 2 years of age. The length of the gestation period also is not known, but it is generally believed to be around 60 days (Nowak 1991).
As in all mammals, white-tailed mongooses are cared for and nursed by their mothers until they are weaned. Little information is available on reproduction in I. albicauda, so the extent of male parental investment is unknown. Young white-tailed mongooses are weaned and acheive independence at about 9 months of age.
Captive white-tailed mongooses can live 12 years (Grzimek 1990). Expected lifespan in the wild is unknown.
Ichneumia albicauda is nocturnal , and is often spotted by humans on trails and roads in the light of motor vehicles (Grzimek 1990). The mongoose's days are spent under thick shrubbery or in abandoned burrows (Taylor 1972). White-tailed mongooses are solitary and the incidence of pairs or groups almost always involves mothers with young or consorting individuals. Individuals do not migrate except away from the territory of the parent at independence (Taylor 1972).
White-tailed mongooses prefer to forage alone and to be near or under the cover of vegetation (Grzimek 1990). Locomotion in the white-tailed mongoose is usually a walk or trot similar to one of a dog, but with the head hung low and shoulders hung nearer to the ground than is the base of the tail (Taylor 1972). White-tailed mongooses do not stand on the hind feet, as do other mongooses (Grzimek 1990).
Detailed studies of home ranges have shown that males occupy an average home range of 0.97 sq. km, and females 0.64. Male home ranges do not overlap, but there is complete overlapping between opposite sexes. Some female ranges were exclusive, but other females share ranges with their offspring (Grzimek, 1990).
White-tailed mongooses are highly vocal and make unusual sounds associated with sexual behavior that have been likened to a dog-like yap (Nowak 1991). They may defend themselves with a noxious secretion from the anal scent glands.
Ichneumia albicauda feeds mainly on insects, but it has a diverse diet (Nowak 1991). The insects eaten include locusts, beetles, and mole crickets. These mongooses may also consume rats, mice, shrews, lizards, snakes, small birds (including chickens), berries, and fruits (Taylor 1972). When they occur near human settlements, they have been known to steal chickens (Grzimek 1990). They are also known to eat the eggs of wild birds, breaking the shell by throwing the egg back between its hind legs against a hard object (Nowak 1991).
The predators of white-tailed mongooses are unknown. Mongooses are aggressive and will actively defend themselves from predators larger than themselves. They are likely to escape predation mainly through their secretive behavior and cryptic appearance. Likely predators include large snakes, birds of prey, and larger predators such as jackals and jaguars. White-tailed mongooses may make themselves unappealing as a meal through their noxious scent.
White-tailed mongooses are important as predators of insects and small vertebrates in the ecosystems in which they live.
Although white-tailed mongooses are shy relative to other mongooses, they are said to become a pleasing pet if captured young (Nowak 1991). White-tailed mongooses are important as members of healthy ecosystems. They may act to reduce the abundance of insect pests.
Ichneumia albicauda may take poultry where they occur near human habitation (Nowak 1991).
White-tailed mongooses are common throughout their range.
An interesting observation has been reported when a white-tailed mongoose steals chickens. Apparently, the mongoose performs a "dance" in front of a henhouse, attracting the attention of the chickens. When the chicken puts its head through the wire mesh to have a closer look at the dancing mongoose, its head is bitten off (Grzimek 1990).
The generic name Ichneumia derives from the Greek "ichneumon," meaning a tracker. Ichneumon is also the species and vernacular name for Egyptian mongooses, Herpestes ichneumon. The specific name albicauda is derived from the Latin, albus for "white", and cauda for "tail" (Taylor 1972).
Tanya Dewey (author), Animal Diversity Web.
Noni Greene (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Volume One. McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., New York, NY
Nowak, R. M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD
Taylor, M. E. 1972. Ichneumia albicauda. Mammalian Species: no. 12. pp. 1-5
Lioncrusher's Domain, 2004. "White Tailed Mongoose: Ichneumia albicauda" (On-line). Accessed February 02, 2005 at http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=132.