Back in 1894, English author Rudyard Kipling published his famous book titled The Jungle Book. It is a collection of stories, mostly fables, using animals in an anthropomorphic manner—that is, they take the behavior of man like talk, reason, and the like—to give a moral lesson. The book became known worldwide, having been adapted into comics, live-action films, and animations, with Disney’s version particularly popular to the mainstream audience.
Among the stories included in The Jungle Book, one of the most famous is arguably Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a story about a young mongoose that was taken in by an English family in India and kept as a pet. The titular mongoose defeats a poisonous snake and eventually saved the family from two cobras and lives the rest of his days defending the family garden from all snakes, which came to regard him as someone to fear. Although the book portrays the mongoose as a great cobra killer (indeed, the Indian Mongoose is popularly used to fight and kill venomous snakes), in nature, they typically avoid cobras since they have no affinity for consuming its meat.
Although in the story the mongoose was a particularly heroic and helpful pet, they are not as well-liked in real life, unfortunately. Mongooses (or mongeese, depending on your preference) are viewed as pests in some places and are usually banned. While not eliminated with extreme prejudice as some pests are, mongeese are normally not welcome in their non-native habitats.
Animal Profile: The Mongoose
The mongoose, like most others of the Herpestidae family, is a small, cat-like carnivore with a long face and body, small rounded ears, short legs, and a tapering tail. They have non-retractable claws that are primarily used for digging. They are natives of southern Asia, Africa, and southern Europe. They can also be found in some Caribbean islands. Depending on the species, a mongoose can grow from one to four feet in length. It mostly feeds on insects, crabs, lizards, earthworms, rodents and chickens. Because of their agility and cunning, they can easily overpower and kill a venomous snake, even a king cobra. They are also protected by a thick coat as well as receptors for acetylcholine that, similar to the receptors of snakes, are shaped so that it is impossible for a snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. Due to this, mongeese are a common road-side spectacle in certain countries, especially in India, where they are made to have mock fights with snakes. Such spectacles are also seen in Japan, although pressure from animal activists have significantly reduced them.
The Pet as a Pest
Not all mongeese are suitable as pets. By nature, most are solitary animals and are very territorial. They also tend to be vicious predators and fighters and as such, may not go well with your other domesticated pets, especially cats. If you want to have a mongoose as a pet, it is better that you get one while it is still young; that way, you will be able to train and raise it properly. With regard to training a mongoose, some species are usually fairly intelligent and can be taught simple tricks so if you manage to tame one, you can pretty much have an enjoyable pet you can show to others.
It is also this intelligence in mongeese that caused them to be domesticated as a way to control vermin. They are mostly used to kill rats and snakes. Ironically, however, it is their destructive nature as an efficient hunter and predator that have made them pests themselves. In fact, such is their efficiency that when they were introduced in the West Indies to control rats and snakes, they not only got the job done but they also destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna as well. Because of this, they are banned in the United States and Australia, among other countries. In Hawaii and Puerto Rico, they are estimated to cause $50 million in damages annually.
Getting Rid of Mongeese
It is rare for a mongoose to be loose in a city. The only time it can happen is if it’s someone’s pet that got loose. Also, in such cases, the mongoose is usually trained and domesticated already, so the damage it can do will not be significant. The mongoose is mostly a problem in the countryside, when they’re wild and untamed. While mongeese don’t reproduce as fast as rabbits, one creature alone can cause big damage to its immediate ecosystem. If you find a mongoose loose in your area, you can do the following steps:
- Call your local wildlife or animal center. They need to know that there’s a legit threat in the wildlife ecosystem running loose. If you sighted a mongoose, chances are there might be more of them around and that can be a problem. If it’s someone else’s pet that got away, then it is still mandatory that you call your local animal or pest control center. You should be aware that mongeese are banned in some countries, and the only way someone can have them as pets is if they have obtained a permit from the government, which is highly unlikely given their threat. Your local animal pest control personnel will know how to capture or take care of the mongoose, as well as do some studies and searches for any more in the area.
- Donate them to your local zoo. If you managed to catch a mongoose and you have no idea at all what to do with them, then you can opt to donate them to the city zoo. The good thing about this is that the zoo will be able to take care of the mongoose properly since they are knowledgeable of how to handle exotic or non-native animals. Zoos also have a more direct relationship with other animal groups, government or otherwise, and they will be able to closely work with them if there is any need to control the mongoose population.
- Use old-fashioned traps. You can also try to trap the mongoose using an old-fashioned cage trap. Since mongeese are generally voracious eaters, you shouldn’t have any problems on what bait to use; they generally are not very picky eaters. Just a word of advice: don’t use snakes as baits for mongeese. While the have a reputation for effective snake-killers, they are not predominantly snake-eaters, so your efforts will just be wasted.
There really isn’t much you can personally do in order to get rid of mongeese in your area. Having a dog or cat around to fight them will just be useless as mongeese are generally aggressive and will not back down from dogs or cats. The best way is to let the authorities know so they will be the ones to handle the problem.
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