Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known animal residents.
A mostly silent but inseparable pair of yellow mongoose recently moved into the new African themed exhibition in the Discovery Room at the nature centre, in Crawley, so this week we are sharing tales of their travels, unusual methods of communicating and their special bond.
Found on the grasslands and scrubland of southern Africa, yellow mongooses live in pairs or small family groups in which there is one dominant breeding pair and other members of the family help to rear the pups. Happily, this species is still common in the wild.
The small mammals grow to around 50cm in length and fur colour ranges from grey to reds and yellows earning them the nickname of ‘red meerkat’ – yellow mongoose and meerkats both belong to the mongoose family.
Two yellow mongooses live at the nature centre.
Our male mongoose was born at Dudley Zoo in 2006 where he was named Bob.
His female mate is considerably older and well travelled having been born in 2000 at Frankfurt Zoo before moving to Africa Alive in Suffolk, she arrived here last year.
Bob and his companion quickly became inseparable and can often be seen curled up together under a heat lamp or carefully grooming each other.
They have recently set up home in the new African extension of the Discovery Room which is also home to dwarf mongooses, leopard tortoises and a variety of exotic reptiles.
While yellow mongooses are often compared to meerkats one difference is that mongooses are much quieter than their noisy relatives.
In fact they rarely make a squeak unless they are frightened.
Instead they have a clever system of communicating with one another using tail movements.
Dominant males will also scent mark territory boundaries and the other members of the pack to try and keep a stable family unit.
Yellow mongooses hunt during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.
They will then spend the night huddled together in burrows – often sharing their space with other animals including meerkats and ground squirrels.
Yellow mongooses mostly eat insects but will also feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles.
Eggs are a favourite food and if you come along at feeding time you can see them expertly breaking them open by throwing them through their legs onto rocks.
We give Bob and his mate several small feeds a day which include specially formulated pellets, mice, eggs and insects such as mealworms, crickets and locusts.
Stay up-to-date with animal news, events and stories by visiting www.tilgatenaturecentre.co.uk.