Black mongoose comes in from the cold

Black mongoose comes in from the cold

THE black mongoose (Galerella nigrata) is potentially not a solitary animal as was earlier believed.

This is what the new head researcher of the Shadow Hunter Project – investigating the conservation status of the black mongoose – discovered recently. Sara Tromp also found that a black mongoose emits a low growling sound like a puppy when startled or threatened, contrary to earlier observations that it did not make any sound.Since January 12, Tromp and assistant Sara Amupolo have been criss-crossing the Hobatere Lodge area west of Etosha, the Ohorongo Hunting Farm south of Etosha and the rocky Erongo Mountains, where the project originally started, to trap black mongooses.Tromp told The Namibian earlier this month that they had so far trapped 25 black mongooses in these three areas.They keep them for a few hours and then let them go again.She said although it was earlier believed that black mongooses are solitary territorial animals, they had seen them in pairs and had trapped up to three individuals at the same location within a 24-hour period.Tromp is doing the research for her PhD in Wildlife Biology with the University of Queensland in Australia.”They also don’t spend all of their time in rocks.We have seen them in gravel areas and foraging on the plains between rocky outcrops,” said Tromp, adding that they had also found that the mongooses liked beef and, once freed, often returned to the traps for another free meal.”We also found that the black mongoose is not black, although it looks black when sighted briefly.It is actually a dark reddish brown animal, sometimes with a stripe down its back and tail,” she said.To lure the animal into a trap, they hang a small piece of beef at the back of it.After trapping a black mongoose, they cut a small notch from its ear to mark it for future identification and also to use for DNA purposes.They also take a number of measurements such as weight and head length, count the number of parasites (ticks) on each mongoose and look at the teeth for signs of wear to get an idea of its age.They are then let go.WOMEN IN THE WILD The two women started trapping mongooses at Hobatere CampSite towards the end of January, followed by Ohorongo Hunting Farm in mid-February.Trapping in the Erongo Mountains was concluded 10 days ago.Tromp said their biggest challenge was a lack of funds to support their work, adding that they also have to walk very long distances in rocky landscapes carrying all the equipment.”Sometimes we have to walk for eight or nine hours a day but the scenery is fantastic and just being here is a privilege.We both really enjoy it,” she said.Amupolo, who will be leaving the project soon, was involved to gain bush experience as she wants to be a tour guide in the tourism industry.Next year, Tromp said, they would put radio collars on 20 black mongooses to determine the animal’s ecology, behaviour and breeding – basic information that is vital when trying to accurately determine their conservation status.Screening of mongoose droppings will help them know more about the animal’s diet.A secondary but no less important aim is to protect the unique environment in which the black mongoose ranges.This can be done through education of local communities and upgrading the protected areas network in Namibia.Earlier studies by former field researcher Augustinus Mbangu, who collected black mongoose faeces at 30 sites in the Erongo Mountains last year, found that the black mongoose lives in rocky sites and does not like crossing open ground because they fear eagles, which are their biggest predators.Although the black mongoose has species status, there is still some debate about whether this is warranted.It was therefore important to comprehend the genetic relationships of mongoose species along the Northern Escarpment of Namibia and to evaluate inter-species genetic variation amongst black mongoose and other species.Tromp says DNA collected during the next few months will help the project to determine both the animal’s genetic status and whether the black mongoose is a sub-species of the slender mongoose or a species in its own right.The slender mongoose is the most common mongoose in Africa.Black mongooses are found from the Erongo Mountains in north-central Namibia north into south-western Angola.The Shadow Hunter Project was established in 2004 to gather the needed data to make sound conservation judgements about the black mongoose.The black mongoose was first discovered 75 years ago in the Ruacana area.But its conservation status is still unknown, which makes its immediate study vital, more so because the species is believed to be Namibia’s largest endemic carnivore.Individuals and organisations that have so far supported the project are Wilderness Safaris, the Wildlife Society of Namibia, Erongo Mountains Nature Conservancy, Radio Electronic, Dr Joh Henschel, the Director of the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre, and the Namibia Nature Foundation/Go Green Fund.Sara Tromp also found that a black mongoose emits a low growling sound like a puppy when startled or threatened, contrary to earlier observations that it did not make any sound.Since January 12, Tromp and assistant Sara Amupolo have been criss-crossing the Hobatere Lodge area west of Etosha, the Ohorongo Hunting Farm south of Etosha and the rocky Erongo Mountains, where the project originally started, to trap black mongooses.Tromp told The Namibian earlier this month that they had so far trapped 25 black mongooses in these three areas.They keep them for a few hours and then let them go again.She said although it was earlier believed that black mongooses are solitary territorial animals, they had seen them in pairs and had trapped up to three individuals at the same location within a 24-hour period.Tromp is doing the research for her PhD in Wildlife Biology with the University of Queensland in Australia.”They also don’t spend all of their time in rocks.We have seen them in gravel areas and foraging on the plains between rocky outcrops,” said Tromp, adding that they had also found that the mongooses liked beef and, once freed, often returned to the traps for another free meal.”We also found that the black mongoose is not black, although it looks black when sighted briefly.It is actually a dark reddish brown animal, sometimes with a stripe down its back and tail,” she said.To lure the animal into a trap, they hang a small piece of beef at the back of it.After trapping a black mongoose, they cut a small notch from its ear to mark it for future identification and also to use for DNA purposes.They also take a number of measurements such as weight and head length, count the number of parasites (ticks) on each mongoose and look at the teeth for signs of wear to get an idea of its age.They are then let go.WOMEN IN THE WILD The two women started trapping mongooses at Hobatere CampSite towards the end of January, followed by Ohorongo Hunting Farm in mid-February.Trapping in the Erongo Mountains was concluded 10 days ago.Tromp said their biggest challenge was a lack of funds to support their work, adding that they also have to walk very long distances in rocky landscapes carrying all the equipment.”Sometimes we have to walk for eight or nine hours a day but the scenery is fantastic and just being here is a privilege.We both really enjoy it,” she said. Amupolo, who will be leaving the project soon, was involved to gain bush experience as she wants to be a tour guide in the tourism industry. Next year, Tromp said, they would put radio collars on 20 black mongooses to determine the animal’s ecology, behaviour and breeding – basic information that is vital when trying to accurately determine their conservation status.Screening of mongoose droppings will help them know more about the animal’s diet.A secondary but no less important aim is to protect the unique environment in which the black mongoose ranges. This can be done through education of local communities and upgrading the protected areas network in Namibia.Earlier studies by former field researcher Augustinus Mbangu, who collected black mongoose faeces at 3
0 sites in the Erongo Mountains last year, found that the black mongoose lives in rocky sites and does not like crossing open ground because they fear eagles, which are their biggest predators.Although the black mongoose has species status, there is still some debate about whether this is warranted.It was therefore important to comprehend the genetic relationships of mongoose species along the Northern Escarpment of Namibia and to evaluate inter-species genetic variation amongst black mongoose and other species.Tromp says DNA collected during the next few months will help the project to determine both the animal’s genetic status and whether the black mongoose is a sub-species of the slender mongoose or a species in its own right.The slender mongoose is the most common mongoose in Africa.Black mongooses are found from the Erongo Mountains in north-central Namibia north into south-western Angola.The Shadow Hunter Project was established in 2004 to gather the needed data to make sound conservation judgements about the black mongoose.The black mongoose was first discovered 75 years ago in the Ruacana area.But its conservation status is still unknown, which makes its immediate study vital, more so because the species is believed to be Namibia’s largest endemic carnivore.Individuals and organisations that have so far supported the project are Wilderness Safaris, the Wildlife Society of Namibia, Erongo Mountains Nature Conservancy, Radio Electronic, Dr Joh Henschel, the Director of the Gobabeb Training and Research Centre, and the Namibia Nature Foundation/Go Green Fund.

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