Galerella sanguineaslender mongoose

Geographic Range

Galerella sanguinea has as many as 40 subspecies, which are distributed throughout savanna and semiarid regions of subsaharan Africa. They are not known to inhabit extreme desert or the densely forested parts of equatorial Africa. (Taylor, 1975)


Slender mongooses are not picky when it comes to habitat, inhabiting a wide variety of biomes within their broad geographic range. They seem to avoid dense tropical forest, but will live anywhere from "arid hills on which there is only a little stunted vegetation, or thick scrub or low forest, or level sandy plains whether comparatively open, bush-covered or lightly wooded." (Hinton, 1967)

Physical Description

Body length, 27.5-40 cm; tail length, 23-33 cm.

As its common name, the "slender mongoose", implies, Galerella sanguinea is one of the smallest mongooses. Like other mongooses, it has short legs and a long, slim body. On average, males are 10-20% larger than females. They are usually reddish, yellowish or gray in color, more rarely dark brown, often speckled, and have a black or red tip of the tail. Ventral pelage ranges from pale yellowish-brown to white. There is considerable variability in coloration among subspecies, usually correlated with soil color for camouflage. They have finer, silkier fur than other African herpestids.(Parker, 1990)

The dental formula for G. sanguinea is 3/3, 1/1, 4/3, 2/2 = 38 (most closely related species have 4 lower premolars) (Taylor, 1975). The first upper premolar is small and occasionally absent; the carnassials are robust. It has five toes on both fore and hind feet.

  • Range mass
    350 to 900 g
    12.33 to 31.72 oz
  • Average mass
    500 g
    17.62 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.202 W


A dominant male's range generally includes the range of several females. Scent cues inform him when a female is in estrus, and a brief courtship occurs. In Galerella sanguinea, the male takes no part in the raising of the young. (Macdonald, 1984)

Timing of pregnancy varies depending on the location and the subspecies, but reproductive activity seems to be concentrated in the period from October to April. Gestation period is believed to be 60-70 days. 2 young are usually born per pregnancy. (Taylor, 1975)

G. sanguinea are believed to reach sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age, and may live to be 10 years old.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    65 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    365 days


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12.6 years


G. sanguinea is is quick and agile, and more arboreal than other mongooses. Its skill in climbing trees has been compared to a squirrel's, and it can hunt birds in trees. Therefore, according to Macdonald (1984), "Birds often mob and divebomb this species while ignoring others which pose less of a threat." Like other well-adapted arboreal animals, and unlike most mongooses, it climbs down trees headfirst. (Hinton, 1967)

They are primarily diurnal, but will hunt at night when there is a moon and the weather is warm. (Hinton, 1967) They den during the warmest part of the day. Members of G. sanguinea usually share their ranges with members of several related species. They are able to reduce competition with these by being diurnal, as most of their viverrid and herpestid relatives are nocturnal. (Maddock, 1993)

For shelter, G. sanguinea will make use of whatever is available: hollow trees or logs, holes among tree roots, crevices between rocks, and abandoned burrows. (Rosevear, 1974)

Galerella sanguinea is commonly observed singly or in pairs, they are less social than some other mongoose species. Mothers and young form the only stable groups. They do not appear to be strongly territorial, but they do maintain more-or-less fixed home ranges. The ranges of adult males overlap, and a dominance hierarchy dictates which among them will mate with the local females, whose ranges are smaller. (Macdonald, 1984) Home ranges may be as small as 1 square km where food is abundant, but are much larger in arid regions. (Nowak, 1997)

Scent marking is an important means of communicating with conspecifics. (Macdonald, 1984) Adults are generally silent, but young animals will make soft, repetitive vocalizations. (Smithers, 1983)

Their most important natural enemies are birds of prey, and they are very alert to large birds flying overhead. They will commonly stand on their hind legs, using their tails for balance, to get a better view of their surroundings. At the first sign of danger they will usually freeze, and then dive for cover if threatened. When excited, their hair will stand erect, making them appear much larger. (Smithers, 1983)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

G. sanguinea are opportunistic feeders. Insects make up the largest portion of the diet, supplemented by lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, amphibians, and fruit. (Smithers, 1983) They will eat carrion and eggs, which they crack open by propelling with the forefeet backward between the hind feet against a hard object. Like other mongooses, they are capable of killing large, venomous snakes, which they then eat, but these are not a significant portion of their diet.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

They help to control insect and rodent pests. For this reason, other species of mongoose have been introduced around the world, but often do more harm than good.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

G. sanguinea is believed to be an important vector for rabies in East Africa. (Hinton, 1967) They will also kill domestic poultry when available. Mongooses have been the targets of extermination efforts for these reasons.

Conservation Status

As a single species, G. sanguinea is widespread and not endangered. Little reliable information exists about most of its subspecies. As G. sanguinea is subject to the same pressures as its African herpestid and viverrid relatives, some of which are endangered, it is likely that some subspecies are threatened with extinction.

Other Comments

Nothing approaching a consensus has emerged regarding the taxonomy of G. sanguinea and its subspecies. In most of the existing literature, it is referred to as Herpestes sanguineus, of the subfamily Herpestinae, part of the family Viverridae.


Ati Tislerics (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Hinton, H., A. Dunn. 1967. Mongooses: Their natural history and behavior. London: Oliver & Boyd.

Macdonald, D. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc..

Maddock, A., M. Perrin. 1993. Spatial and temporal ecology of an assemblage of viverrids in Natal, South Africa. Journal of Zoology (London), 229(2): 277-287.

Nowak, R. 1997. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 1999 at

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Rosevear, D. 1974. The Carnivores of West Africa. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Schreiber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses and Their Relatives: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Smithers, R. 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Pretoria, Republic of South Africa: University of Pretoria.

Taylor, M. 1975. Herpestes sanguineus. Mammalian Species, 65: 1-5.