When one mongoose at the Fort Wayne children’s zoo left for the vets he didn’t expect to be attacked by his mates upon returning home. Unfortunately that was what happened luckily a keeper quickly stepped in with a solution that fixed all the problems.
Banded mongooses communicate using their scents. When this one was taken to the vets he picked up a range of human scents leaving the other mongooses to believe he was different. The other mongooses refused to share the enclosure with him and some decided to attack him.
Vicks Vapo-rub turned out to be the solution says keeper Nancee Hutchinson, ‘We bring them indoors and spray Vicks Vap-O-Rub on the floor. The whole troop comes running and rolls all around in it. Then they all smell the same, even the one who spent some time away.’
The behaviour where the mongooses roll around in scents is known as ‘scent marking.’ The process is commonly used in the wild to make sure all the troop members smell the same.
The technique was use at the zoo after keepers learned of a similar technique being used for meerkats in the UK. As mongooses and meerkats hail from the same family the concept was able to work for them as well.
Hutchinson said ‘When we spray Vicks inside the mongoose enclosure, the mongooses respond by scent-marking. They all roll around in the Vicks. This overrides any old smells that might have caused them to reject a member.’ This includes the smell of humans meaning the other mongoose has been accepted back as a member of the troop.
The concept has drawn attention from zookeepers throughout America. Due to this Hutchinson will share what she has learnt with other zoo keepers at the American Association of Zoo Keepers national conference this fall.
Photo Sources: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo