Mongoose: The Snake Killer

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The mongoose is a small carnivorous mammal that belongs to the biological family of Herpestidae, and it can be found in most countries of the world. There are 33 known species of mongoose, and it is known for its ability to kill and eat venomous snakes like the cobra, making it the known enemy of snakes.

Although mongooses are fierce hunters, they generally do not kill without reason. Most of the time, they kill snakes to eat them, as snakes are a staple food in the mongoose's diet. The Indian brown mongoose is one of the most famous snake killers, and it is known to house one of the world's deadliest snakes, the king cobra. These mongooses hunt and kill these snakes in their natural habitat, eating them down to their venom sacs.

Killing Deadly Cobras

Mongooses can also kill snakes in self-defense and to protect their young, as some species of snakes also prey on mongooses and can easily capture undiscovered mongoose babies. Mongooses kill a variety of snakes, but cobras are very high on the list. Despite their natural defenses against venom, mongooses who fight snakes can still face the risk of injury or death. Many snakes, especially cobras, are much larger than mongooses and can put up a good enough fight. Sometimes, they kill the mongoose before they kill the snake.

According to the Animal Facts Encyclopedia, mongooses are not completely immune to all snake venoms, but they are relatively tolerant of them. A cobra bite can kill a person in half an hour, as the poison affects the nervous system, quickly shutting down the brain and nerves, and affecting other major organ systems within minutes. 

However, if a mongoose is bitten by a cobra, it will not suffer any negative effects from the initial bite. The mongoose's brain contains a certain neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which binds to toxins in the bloodstream, essentially neutralizing them and preventing them from binding to the mongoose's nervous system.

Mongooses are mainly animals living in secluded places, such as near human settlements, open fields, paddy fields, as well as forests. They do not often build their homes; instead, they live in holes abandoned by animals such as rats and rabbits or even in bushes near human settlements. Despite their small size, mongooses can run at a speed of 40 km per hour, and they hunt ground birds, reptiles, small mammals, and insects for their diets day and night. They are social animals that like to live in groups, and a herd of mongooses can have more than 50 members, which is called a "pex."

In conclusion, the mongoose is a fascinating and unique animal that is known for its ability to kill and eat venomous snakes. While they are largely immune to venom, they still face the risk of injury or death when fighting snakes, especially larger ones like the cobra. Nonetheless, they are skilled hunters and play an important role in the ecosystem as well as being a fascinating and entertaining creature to observe. Since there are many species of mongoose, its color also varies. Most mongooses are brown in color, and their tails are bushy and long. The beauty of the mongoose lies in its tail. Mongoose herds work as a collective family. Each member has an important role to play, and they share food with each other.

Mongooses are small carnivorous mammals that belong to the family Herpestidae. There are 34 species of mongooses, which vary in size and weight, but most average between 7 and 27 inches in length and weigh between 0.95 to 4 kg. Despite living on the ground, mongooses can easily climb trees as needed. 

Their heads blend in with their reddish-brown fur.

Mongoose species emit a high-pitched sound during mating season, known as "giggling," to call potential mates and protect them during the breeding process. Gestation lasts about 60 days, and females give birth to 3-4 cubs at a time. Healthy baby mongooses weigh between 25 and 28 grams and are born hairless. They typically live for 6 to 10 years.

Mongooses are used by local residents in villages to control rats, snakes, and other vermin. They are agile animals known for their eyesight and speed of hunting. Their claws are very dangerous, which they use to protect their offspring.

Mongooses are strategic in killing venomous snakes like the cobra. Snake venom has very little effect on their bodies, but repeated bites can be fatal. This is why they are also known as the "snake-killing animal."

Four Species

In Nepal, there are four species of mongooses: gray mongoose, small Indian mongoose, crab-eating mongoose, and ruddy mongoose. Gray and small Indian mongooses are common in different parts of Nepal, while crab-eating and ruddy mongooses are rarer.

The crab-eating mongoose, which is characterised by its white fur and a band on its belly that runs from the cheek to the chest, is classified as vulnerable. Its population trend is declining due to poaching, overfishing, habitat loss, poisoning of waterholes, and illegal fishing. Although it occurs in areas between 100m and 1300m in the protected areas of the Terai and in the Terai forests of eastern Nepal, there are few records of its current status.

Sagar Dahal, a PhD candidate at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, is currently conducting research on fishing cats, small mammals that are found in Nepal. He notes that the crab-eating and ruddy mongooses are more special than the gray and small Indian mongooses found in different parts of Nepal, from the lowlands to the Mode Hill 

(Dhungana is a senior wildlife photographer and writer)

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Rajesh Dhungana
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