Liberiictis kuhniLiberian mongoose

Geographic Range

Liberian mongooses (Liberiictis kuhni) have historically been found in northeastern Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire. However, a small population was discovered in southeastern Liberia in 2011, about 80 km south of their previously known home range. Currently, their range reaches south to the Sapo National Park in Liberia and north as far as southern Guinea, when suitable habitat is available. They range west to central Liberia and east to western Côte d’Ivoire, all along the border of Liberia. (Tayler, et al., 2015; Vogt, et al., 2012)

Habitat

The natural habitat of Liberian mongooses is primary, undisturbed forests and secondary forests which have experienced past effects of disturbance. They have also been found in and around stream beds with sandy soils, as well as in freshwater swamp forests. (Vogt, et al., 2012)

Physical Description

Liberian mongooses have dark brown coats with distinctive dark stripes on the sides of their necks, bordered by two white stripes. They have pale-colored throats, dark legs, and slightly bicolored bushy tails. Compared to other mongooses, distinguishing features of Liberian mongooses include elongated snouts, sharp canines with an additional premolar in both the upper and lower jaws. They use their elongated snouts to dig up insects, which is their primary food source. The average body length of adult males is 42.3 cm long, with an average tail length of 19.7 cm. The average body length of adult females is 47.8 cm long, with an average tail length of 20.5 cm. The average weight of adult males and females is 2 kg. Liberian mongooses have long, thick claws used for digging up food. The longest claws on their hind feet are located on their third and fourth toes, and reach up to 13 mm. The longest claws on their forefeet can reach 18 mm. When comparing Liberian mongooses to their close relatives, common kusimanses (Crossarchus obscurus), Liberian mongooses have a much larger and robust skull. Their teeth are proportionally smaller and weaker than common kusimanses. Liberian mongooses also have dark stripes along the back of their necks, and they have longer ears than common kusimanses. (Nowak and Walker, 1999; Schlitter, 1958; Taylor, 1992; Vogt, et al., 2012)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    2 kg
    4.41 lb
  • Range length
    42.3 to 47.8 cm
    16.65 to 18.82 in

Reproduction

The mating system of Liberian mongooses is not well documented. However, one of their closest relatives, banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), live in groups of males and females, with one dominant male being aggressive to all other males who attempt to mate. However, this does not stop females from mating with other males in the group. During courtship, females participate by lying on their backs and wrestling with males. (Cant, 2000; Skinner and Smithers, 1990)

Little is known about the reproductive behaviors of Liberian mongooses. It is thought that their breeding season coincides with the rainy season, which is from May to September.

A close relative of Liberian mongooses - banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) - have a gestation period typically around two months. Their young are born nearly hairless and blind. Litters are born in burrows with grass lining and multiple chambers. Females become sexually mature around 9 to 10 months old, and males as early as 4 months old. (Cant, 2000; Nowak and Walker, 1999; Skinner and Smithers, 1990)

  • Breeding season
    Expected to occur from May to September, coinciding with the rainy season.

Parental investment in Liberian mongooses is unknown.

Their close relatives, banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), have litters of 2 to 6 pups. Young may be suckled by any lactating female, not just their mothers. At four weeks old, pups are allowed out of their dens accompanied by an adult. At three months old, pups are independent. The whole pack participates in the raising young. (Cant, 2000; Skinner and Smithers, 1990)

Lifespan/Longevity

Little is known about the lifespan of Liberian mongooses. However, the IUCN lists their generational length to be about four years. (Tayler, et al., 2015)

Behavior

There has been limited research on the behavior of Liberian mongooses. They are known to be most active diurnally and they are a ground dwelling species. Liberian mongooses use burrows - most typically tree holes. There has also been one instance of a burrow associated with a termite mound. These burrows are assumed to be used as their den for resting and raising their young. Typically, 3 to 5 individuals occupy a single burrow, and groups as large as 15 individuals have been reported foraging together. (Nowak and Walker, 1999; Schlitter, 1958)

Home Range

Little is known about the home range of Liberian mongooses.

Communication and Perception

Communication habits of Liberian mongooses are not well documented.

One of their closest relatives, banded mongooses (Mungos mungo), have been documented to have 15 different acoustically discrete call types. They live in social groups and coordination of behaviors and decisions within that group is essential. Banded mongooses also use scent marking to mark their territory, and to mark each other in case of separation. (Jansen, 2013)

Food Habits

Liberian mongooses uses their elongated snouts and long claws to dig through sand and soil in search of food. Liberian mongooses are primarily insectivorous, but they also eat worms, eggs, and small vertebrates. It was reported that a captive Liberian mongoose was fed fish, young chicken, dog food, and ground meat. Liberian mongooses are most often found foraging around stream beds with deep, sandy soils where an abundance of earthworms, a primary food source, can be found. (Nowak and Walker, 1999; Vogt, et al., 2012)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Natural predators of Liberian mongooses are not documented, and humans are believed to be their primary predator. They are hunted for their meat using shotguns, snares, and dogs. (Vogt, et al., 2012)

Ecosystem Roles

Liberian mongooses are thought to be ecosystem engineers, by increasing small-scale ecosystem heterogeneity. They affect seed predation and assist in seed dispersal and germination. They are known to aid their ecosystems by turning over large areas of the forest while foraging. This mixes organic matter into the soil and encourages fresh plant growth. (Taylor, 1992; Vogt, et al., 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The only economic importance of Liberian mongooses for humans is as a food source. (Vogt, et al., 2012)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Liberian mongooses have no documented negative economic impact on humans.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has listed Liberian mongooses as vulnerable. Liberian mongooses were thought to only inhabit northeastern Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire. However, in 2011 they were spotted in Sapo National Park, in southeastern Liberia. Liberian mongoose populations are currently declining, with an estimated population of mature individuals being 5,200. The main cause for their decline is human hunting and habitat loss due to logging, mining, and agriculture. (Tayler, et al., 2015; Vogt, et al., 2012)

Other Comments

There has been limited research done on Liberian mongooses because they are rare and difficult to study. This is why very little is known about their behavior.

Liberian mongooses were first described in 1958 based only on a skull bone. In 1974, the first complete specimen was secured, but it was not until 1989 that a live specimen was captured. Studies on these specimens have provided information into the morphology of Liberian mongooses more than their behavior. Most of what we know behaviorally comes from a few observations by scientists, as well as local accounts from human observers. A live specimen was exhibited at the Toronto Zoo in 1989, but has since died, leaving no documented live specimen in captivity currently. (Nowak and Walker, 1999; Taylor, 1992; Vogt, et al., 2012)

Contributors

Zachary Chiles (author), University of Washington, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

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

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

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.

piscivore

an animal that mainly eats fish

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

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

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Cant, M. 2000. Social Control of reproduction in banded mongooses. Animal Behaviour, Vol.59, No.1: 147-158.

Jansen, D. 2013. Vocal communication in Banded Mongoose. University of Zurich, Faculty of Science: University of Zurich.

Nowak, R., E. Walker. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Volume 1 Sixth edition. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.

Schlitter, D. 1958. Notes on the Liberian Mongoose, Liberiictis kuhni Hayman, 1958. Journal of Mammalogy, Vol.55, No.2: 438-442.

Skinner, J., R. Smithers. 1990. The Mammals of The Southern African Subregion. Pretoria, Transvaal, Republic of South Africa: University of Pretoria.

Tayler, M., E. Greengrass, A. Dunham, E. Do Linh San. 2015. "Liberian Mongoose" (On-line). Accessed April 20, 2019 at https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/11933/45198780#habitat-ecology.

Taylor, M. 1992. The Liberian mongoose. ORYX, Vol 26, No.2: 103-106.

Vogt, T., B. Forster, J. Quawah, C. Random, C. Hodgkinson, B. Collen. 2012. First records of Liberian Mongoose Liberiictis kuhni in Sapo National Park, southeast Liberia. Small Carnivore Conservation, Vol.47: 35-37. Accessed April 20, 2019 at http://nebula.wsimg.com/88f1e6d773106c96d1b47c7caa14ab95?AccessKeyId=35E369A09ED705622D78&disposition=0&alloworigin=1.