The endearing Dwarf Mongoose is the smallest carnivore in Africa. These diminutive mongooses live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, occurring in packs of 10 odd individuals and moving in a circular route over a two-week period. The group normally spend the nights in the ventilation shafts of termite mounds. Their rotational feeding and semi-nomadic habits prevent the depletion of food in the area and also stop a build-up of pests and parasites in their temporary dens. The size of the territory of any one pack will depend on food availability and is on average about 30 ha.
Dwarf mongoose has an involved social structure where only the alfa pair will breed and the other members of the pack will help rear the young; characteristic of co-operative breeding. The Alpha pair somehow suppress the sexual maturation of the other members attacking them if the show sexual behaviour.
The dominant female will give birth to 4-6 young and apart from sucking her young, she will leave their care to other pack members. She needs to spend a lot of time and effort foraging to maintain her superior size and milk supply. Of the other pack members, both the males and females attend to the young and astonishingly some females even produce milk without ever being pregnant. The babies are carried from den to den as the groups move until at about 4 weeks, they are old enough to keep up. The “baby sitters” are also charged with teaching the youngsters to hunt, teaching by example. The youngsters learn quickly and are fully weaned by 8 weeks.
The strong bonds between pack members are cemented by constant contact and play as well as sleeping together in the den. They methodically mark their territory every morning when they emerge from the den and every time they change the chosen accommodation for the night. Dwarf mongooses have developed a mutualistic relationship with certain hornbill species. The hornbills and mongooses share much of the same prey species and warn one another when a predator is sighted.
All mongoose belong to family Viverridae, a large and diverse group of carnivores also including genets and civets.