The Curious Case of the Banded Mongooses

Banded Mongoose-0014-1282“Hey look over there, it’s a meerkat!” You might hear something like this when you first visit the banded mongoose exhibit within the children’s zoo. Guests from all over come to this exhibit thinking they are observing the meerkats, so why is it that our mongoose family has a mistaken identity? Throughout the zoo we have an array of animals that guests love to see. Between the giraffes, elephants, and gorillas, sometimes the little guy goes by unnoticed. In the spirit of rooting for the underdogs of the zoo let’s take a look at who the mongooses really are and what makes them so special.

From the plains of sub-Sahara Africa, our carnivorous little mongooses are in fact part of the same family as meerkats. This is the simple reason many guests get the two confused due to the similar size and appearance. Ranging from four to four months old, the zoo is home to fifteen mongooses that on a daily basis do absolutely everything together.  Banded mongooses in general are colony dwellers; living in big groups, hunting in groups and even raising babies in a group. To keep our mongooses well fed and eating things they would naturally encounter in the wild, the keepers provide a wide variety of meals for them ranging from insects, meat, mice, fruits and vegetables. Courtney Ligon, mongoose keeper, said the mongooses’ favorite thing to eat is the mice whereas the fruits and vegetables are not so popular among them.  The keepers typically feed the mongooses before the zoo opens to the public but guests can sometimes see them chowing down on worms or mice during enrichment periods. Although they receive a wide variety of food every day, Courtney said the banded mongooses don’t start eating like that from birth. Banded mongooses don’t open their eyes until about two weeks of age and can’t consume solid food until a month after birth. Then again mongooses grow very fast and a month’s time is nothing compared to the growth rate of humans.mongoosecombo

Aside from their mistaken identity, mongooses bare another common misconception in the form of snake fighting. Just about every depiction of a mongoose in popular culture represents a fearsome battle with a cobra, but the truth is not all types of mongooses do that. Banded mongooses are just one of over thirty types of mongooses across fourteen specie classifications and are quite different from their snake fighting counterparts. Indian gray mongooses, who live in solitary, are the ones typically known for their ability to fight snakes due to their thick coats and receptors that render them resistant to snake venom. However, banded mongooses are much smaller in nature and do not possess the qualities to take on a venomous snake. Banded mongooses may not intentionally engage in conflict with snakes but that does not mean they don’t encounter them. The mongoose keepers have been known to lay out snake sheds within the exhibit, being one of the many ways the keepers bring out natural characteristics of the wild and from our mongooses.

IMG_6160Enrichment is very important for all our animals at the zoo and due to the curiosity of the mongooses, the keepers like to keep things unique and playful. Ranging from puzzle feeders to putting worms in containers, the keepers engage the mongooses in enrichment every day while constantly keeping an enrichment chart on hand in order to keep track of what the mongooses get on any given day. The banded mongooses have a different keeper every few days, switching up the routine and keeping things fresh due to the various training styles among the keepers. One of the coolest things our keepers do for the mongooses is give them hard boiled eggs to play with. Now you may be wondering what is so cool about an egg, but in fact this activity brings out one of the most natural sides to our little friends. In the wild, banded mongooses will take hard shell food, such as eggs and snails, and throw them with their legs against a hard surface in order to crack it open. The keepers encourage this by not only giving the mongooses eggs, but also rocks, nuts, and coconuts. Aside from the enrichment activities done by the keepers, our mongooses also receive enrichment from their exhibit. The mongoose exhibit is home to two different types of tunnels, the mongoose tunnels and the guest tunnels, both of which provide an enriching experience. The six mongoose tunnels that run through the exhibit are made of PVC pipe and provide the mongooses a place to hide, sleep, and take food if necessary. The guest tunnels are meant for kids to have a fun and engaging experience but it not only excites the kids but also keeps the mongooses playful and curious as they gather around the tubes just about every time a kid pops their head up in one.

Next time you visit the zoo make sure to check out our playful mongooses as they enjoy their natural exhibit and when someone yells “hey it’s a meerkat!” you can make sure to tell them about all the things you learned here.



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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Is this the one that had the limp?

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

Run free in the heavens, your limp is no more. Prayers for all his caretakers at the Houston Zoo

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

Thinking of you all. What an amazing life he had thanks to the dedication of the zoo staff! ❤️

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Aww, so very sorry for your loss, Houston. Condolences to his keepers and all who loved him. ((((Lorie Fortner)))) He surely lived a long life with the great care he received at Houston.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less

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Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?

 

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

Andrew Kaufmann Look its Richard Jr! 😂

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

Wow ... good photo shot ... show the world that you need to protect your pipe ... if not, freezing water will expand the pipe and crack the pipe !!!

I fell for the mouse thing too..

My gutters had glaciers in them!

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Johnnie R. Summerlin, cool, see the "stalagm ice"?

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!

Cortez

Ashley Nguyen

Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Vicente Gonzalez

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