Dwarf Mongoose Fact File

Helogale parvula








Wild 10 years

Captive 18 years



Insects, Rodents, Birds

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The dwarf mongoose is the smallest member of the mongoose family and is also believed to be Africa's smallest carnivore.

These tiny animals are covered by a thick coat of speckled brown or reddish fur.

Dwarf mongoose live in female dominated societies which are led by a single dominant individual. She will prevent any other females within the group from breeding. Other group members help her to raise the young.

Read on to learn more about these marvelous mongooses.


Dwarf mongoose are considered to be the smallest member of the mongoose family. They have a total body length of between 18 and 28cm (7-11in) long with an average weight of 200-350g (7-13oz).

At the end of the body is a tail of between 14 and 19cm (5.5-7.5in) long.

Their body is covered by fur which is speckled brown or reddish in color. This coat is thick. The tail and lower legs tend to be darker than the rest of the body.

Their head features a blunt and pointed muzzle. On top of the head are a pair of small ears.


Dwarf mongoose are carnivores. They primarily feed on insects but also feed on small vertebrates such as lizards, snakes, birds and eggs.

While not dependent on water the dwarf mongoose will drink when water is available.

Dwarf Mongoose


Africa is the native home of the dwarf mongoose. Here they can be found across Angola; Botswana; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Uganda and Zambia.

Their current presence in Djibouti and Gambia is uncertain.


They make their home in woodlands, thickets and savannas.

Dwarf mongoose will shelter in termite nests, rocky outcrops, crevices and hollow logs or trees. The presence of a suitable den is thought to one of the main influences on habitat suitability.

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Only the dominant female is allowed to breed. In the event a subordinate female breeds the dominant individual often kills the young.

A litter may include up to six young. The matriarch will produce two or three litters each year. These are born after a 55 day gestation period.

The pups are nursed on milk for up to 45 days. All members of the group contribute to the care of the young. They will bring food to the den for the pups.

At six months old the pups will begin to move around with their pack.

Females reach sexual maturity at 1.3 years old with males maturing later around 3 years old. Often the social pressures of dwarf mongoose society prevent females from mating till 3 years old.


A family of dwarf mongoose will include 12 to 15 members which maintain a home range. Inside this range are a number of termite mounds which are used as their den sites and lookout posts. They regularly move through their range.

Females are in charge within a mongoose family. They will initiate movement within the group and have the first rights over food. Younger animals rank higher than older animals. It is thought this ensures that the young are fed.

Dwarf mongoose enjoy a mutualistic relationship with hornbills where they work together to find food and warn each other of predators.

They mark their territory through scent. To mark their territory they complete a handstand.

These animals are active by day. In the morning they will sunbake.

While foraging they maintain constant communication. They make a range of vocalizations including whistles and twitters. Each predator they encounter has a different alarm call so the family know how to avoid the danger.

A bird known as the fork-tailed drongo has learnt to mimic the dwarf mongoose and will copy its alarm call. This causes the mongoose to flee to safety and the drongo can then steal its food.

Dwarf Mongoose

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the dwarf mongoose include birds of prey such as the marabou stork, lizards, larger mongoose such as the gray mongoose, jackals and snakes.

They are always alert to their surroundings and males will keep a lookout. If any suspicious activity is detected he lets out an alarm call. To assist with this lookout he climbs a termite mound.

Currently no major threats are recognized to this species and their population is considered stable. In some areas they steal eggs from farms and are seen as a pest.

Quick facts

Dwarf mongoose are the smallest mongoose species and the smallest carnivore in Africa.

These animals have shown a level of immunity to the neurotoxic venom of snakes.

Dwarf Mongoose

Photo Credits


Under License

Middle One

Michał Rosa, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two and Bottom

Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Sharpe, L., Kern, J. & Do Linh San, E. 2015. Helogale parvula. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41609A45206516. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T41609A45206516.en. Downloaded on 26 May 2021.

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. Dwarf Mongoose | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/dwarf-mongoose> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Dwarf mongoose. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/dwarf-mongoose> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

African Wildlife Foundation. 2021. Dwarf mongoose are the smallest carnivore in Africa.. [online] Available at: <https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/dwarf-mongoose> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

Oregon Zoo. 2021. Dwarf mongoose. [online] Available at: <https://www.oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/dwarf-mongoose> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. 2021. Wild Facts Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve | Dwarf Mongoose. [online] Available at: <https://www.sabisabi.com/wildfacts/dwarf-mongoose/> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

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