White-tailed Mongoose

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ichneumia albicauda

  • SWAHILI NAME: Nguchiro mkia mweupe; Kimburu

The mongoose was made famous by its Indian, snake-killing cousin Rikki Tikki Tavi, featured in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. African mongooses, especially white-tailed mongooses, also kill snakes, but are more apt to eat bugs. Relatives of otters and weasels, several species of mongooses range across Africa. Of these, the black-legged white-tailed mongoose is the fastest.

White-tailed Mongoose

White-tailed Mongoose



Daily Rhythm




Life span

In the wild: Insufficient data
In captivity: 10 to 14 years

Conservation Status

Lower risk


Male: 8.0 to 11.5 lb (3.6 to 5.2 kg)
Female: 8 to 11 pounds (3.6 to 5.0 kg)


Male: 22.5 to 41.0 in (57.4 to 104.0 cm) long, excluding tail
Female: 20 to 23 in (51.9 to 59.1 cm) long, excluding tail

White-tailed Mongoose

Listen to the sounds of the White-tailed Mongoose

Tracks and Scat

Tracks: Similar to those of the slender mongoose except slightly larger and heavier
Scat: Cylindrical and narrow; may contain remnants of crab shells, fur, or fruit seeds

White-tailed Mongoose tracks

Trivia Question

Why do white-tailed mongooses often live around villages and farms?


White-tailed mongooses live in high numbers around towns and farms because of all the garbage that is readily available and all the insects that the livestock manure attracts.

Social Structure

White-tailed mongooses lead mainly solitary lives, living in groups primarily when they’re very young and when they’re mating. White-tailed mongooses may forage near each other in areas where a lot of food is available, but they aren’t social the way some other mongooses are. When they encounter members of their species, unless they’re interested in mating, they usually just sniff each others noses, then go on their way. Both males and females are territorial, though male territories frequently overlap female territories. Like other mustelids, they delineate their territories by scent-marking. Territories tend to include several denning sites, and adults may use the same den for 5 to 15 days before moving to a new one.


Although largely silent, white-tailed mongooses do make high-pitched chittering noises and loud bark-screeches when they’re scared or upset.


Primarily nocturnal, white-tailed mongooses rest during the heat of the day in burrows, but don’t actually dig their own. Instead, they use aardvark or springhare burrows, or holes in termite mounds or in tree trunks. They hunt for six to eight hours every night, traveling as far as 2.5 to 3 miles (4 to 5 km) while patrolling their home range.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists white-tailed mongooses as a species of lower risk. They are widespread and seem to thrive near humans.

Range & Habitat

White-tailed mongooses are common and fairly widespread, ranging across sub-Saharan Africa except in rain forest and desert or semi-desert regions.

These mongooses are extremely adaptable. Except for dry regions and equatorial rain forests, white-tailed mongooses can live almost anywhere, including savannas, grasslands, and woodlands, so long as food and denning sites are plentiful. They also survive well around farms, villages, gardens, and other human environments.


White-tailed mongooses have broad, heavy teeth adapted for crushing insects, which make up the majority of their diet, especially during the wet seasons. They will also eat large frogs, rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, and eggs, as well as carrion and human refuse. This mongoose typically hunts on its own, zigzagging across the ground, following its nose to find a meal.


Breeding is seasonal for white-tailed mongooses. In West Africa, it occurs during the dry season, while in East and southern Africa, most pups are born in the wet season. Females likely give birth in their dens to litters of one to four pups. Once they’re weaned at about nine months, young white-tailed mongooses will forage on their own for several hours each night, though they will stay within their mother’s home range for another four months.

Friends & Foes

They may share territories with other nocturnal carnivores, including bat-eared foxes and aardwolves, but they don’t seem to compete for food. White-tailed mongooses make themselves unattractive to predators by releasing a nasty scent when threatened. In some areas, people hunt them for food.

Population in Kenya & Beyond

Populations of white-tailed mongooses are plentiful across much of their range. They reach densities of 11 individuals per square mile (4.3 per km2) in favorable habitats, such as Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania.

White-tailed Mongoose

Did you know?

To break an egg, a mongoose backs up to a rock, then throws the egg between its back legs until the rock cracks the shell.