Much time was spent this morning tracking our herd of elephants that are currently highly mobile around the reserve. Whilst on our search for the elephants we had a great sighting of a group of dwarf mongoose. We first saw the alpha male who was at the den on top of a termite mound doing his very important job of scanning for danger on behalf of the rest of the group. Like elephants, the dwarf mongoose group is matriarchal. The dominant female and her mate are the only ones who are allowed to breed. Other members of the pack help care for and feed the young. Their job is to bring food back to the dens, groom, play with, and baby-sit the younger mongooses. We were lucky enough to see the rest of the group (we counted between 10 & 12) interacting, foraging for food and scent marking their territory. As we waited patiently the group began to emerge from their den to sunbathe & socialize. We witnessed them marking their territory which they do by performing handstands!!! As well as marking territories, they scent mark one another which is fun to watch.
Also in the sighting were a number of yellow and red billed hornbills who form foraging parties with the mongoose. Often, other species of birds exploit the mongooses by allowing the mongoose to flush out game, and then the birds steal it from them. However the relationship between mongoose and hornbills is different – the hornbills will hop along with the mongooses, eating the same things, and sometimes competing with the mongooses, although they don’t usually steal food from them. The mongooses benefit from the warning calls that the hornbills give when a predatory bird is near.
It was great fun to see these 2 species interacting with each other, but our sighting was soon brought to a close when some warthogs approached the scene! The mongoose uttered one of the many warning calls in their repertoire and scattered in all different directions to hide!
An extra bonus we were lucky enough to see 3 different species of owls on the journey back to the lodge. The earless, Pearl Spotted Owlet which is one of Africa’s smallest owls, a Scops Owl with its amazing characteristic orange eyes and a Spotted Eagle Owl, the largest of .the three
Story by: Sarah Sangster-Kapama River Lodge Ranger