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.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
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.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Average mass: 3500 g.
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.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: riparian
Habitat and Ecology
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).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )
White-tailed mongooses are important as predators of insects and small vertebrates in the ecosystems in which they live.
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.
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
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.
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Captive white-tailed mongooses can live 12 years (Grzimek 1990). Expected lifespan in the wild is unknown.
Status: captivity: 12 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 12.0 years.
Status: captivity: 10.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
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).
Breeding interval: The appearance of litters during only the wet season suggests that breeding occurs once yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding is estimated to occur between December and March, with litters of young appearing during the wet season, from February to May.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Average gestation period: 60 days.
Average weaning age: 9 months.
Average time to independence: 9 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 (high) years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 (high) years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 2.3.
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.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
White-tailed mongooses are common throughout their range.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Ichneumia albicauda may take poultry where they occur near human habitation (Nowak 1991).
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.
Positive Impacts: controls pest population
Range and habitat
The white-tailed mongoose lives in most of Africa south of the Sahara, and the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. They live in a wide range of habitats, from semi-desert to savanna woodland, but avoid moist areas like the Congo River basin or extremely arid areas. They prefer areas of thick cover, such as the edges of forests and brushy streams.
The white-tailed mongoose attains a weight range of 6.4-9.2 lb (2.9-4.2 kg), has a head-and-body length of 21-28 in (53–71 cm) and a tail length of 16-19 in (40–47 cm). Its legs are relatively long for a mongoose. The head is very long and narrow and tapers to a point. Its large, rounded ears are set low on the sides of the head. It has a yellow to tan coloration on its body, with long black guard hairs, giving it an overall grizzled grey appearance. The legs and arms are black from the elbow/knee down. The base of the large, bushy tail is brownish yellow, and is white on the latter half. The tail may make up to 40% of the body length and tapers to a point. They lack hair on their upper lip and their hands from the palms to the wrists. Females have four teats.
The genus name, Ichneumia, is derived from the Greek ichneumon, which means 'tracker'. This name also happens to be the species and common name for the Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon). The species name, albicauda, is derived from the Latin words albus, meaning 'white', and cauda, which means 'tail'.
The white-tailed mongoose feeds mostly on insects, but will feed on a wide variety of other foods as well. Locusts, beetles, and mole crickets make up the majority of their diet. Rats, mice, shrews, lizards, snakes, small birds are also eaten, along with the occasional fruits and berries. The eggs of birds are also eaten; they will break open the egg by throwing it between its hind legs against a rock or other hard object. They have been known to raid chicken houses in areas where domestic poultry is raised.
Ichneumia albicauda is primarily nocturnal and terrestrial. By day they will rest in an abandoned burrow, termite mound, or in cavities under tree roots. The average home range is 0.97 km² for males and 0.64 km² for females. Ranges of males do not overlap, but ranges of opposite sexes overlap significantly. Females either live alone with their own offspring or in a small group with other females and their offspring, although they do not associate with each other. Though they may share a range, they forage separately. They are, for the most part, solitary creatures, with the male and female only coming together to mate. Reports of groups are either a breeding pair or a mother and her offspring. These mongooses do not migrate except to establish their own territory away from their mother's range.
These mongooses are very vocal, and make an unusual barking sound that is associated with sexual behavior. If frightened, they will secrete a noxious substance from their anal glands. They do not stand on their hind feet for any length of time like other mongooses.
Knowledge of the reproduction of the white tailed mongoose is incomplete. Litters are seen most frequently from February to May, and no young appear at all during the dry season from August to November, which suggests that they only breed once a year. The young are fully weaned at nine months of age, and around this time, the young disperse. It is speculated that sexual maturity is reached before two years of age, and that the gestation period is around 60 days.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). "Ichneumia albicauda". Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Hoffmann, M. (2008). "Ichneumia albicauda". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 14 June 2010. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). "Ichneumia". Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Dewey, T. and N. Greene. 1999. Ichneumia albicauda at Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 14, 2010.
- Estes, Richard D. (1999). The Safari Companion. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. p. 261. ISBN 1890132446.