Herpestes javanicusIndian mongoose(Also: Javan mongoose)

Geographic Range

The small Indian mongoose was originally found across southeast Asia from Pakistan to the south coast of China, and throughout the Malay Peninsula and Java (Corbet and Hill 1992). However, this species has been widely introduced, including to the West Indies, South America, Japan, Europe and several Pacific islands, to help control rodent and snake populations (Nellis and Everard 1983, Tyrtkovic and Krystufek 1990, Ogura et al. 1998). (Corbet and Hill, 1992; Nellis and Everard, 1983; Ogura, et al., 1998; Tyrtkovic and Krysufek, 1990)


In the Caribbean, small Indian mongooses are found only in dry forest and scrubland (Nellis and Everard 1983). On Pacific islands, they are found both in these dry habitats and also in rainforest (Tomich 1979). No study has been done to determine their habitat in the natural range. (Nellis and Everard, 1983; Tomich, 1979)

Physical Description

The Javan mongoose shares the typical traits of mongooses but is small. They have a pointed head, a long tail, and thick hair except on their lower legs (Ewer 1977). Their fur coat can stand on end, which make the animal appear twice as large when it combats such enemies as poisonous reptiles.

Males average 650 g in weight and females 430 g. (Ewer, 1977)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    0 to 0 kg
    0.00 to 0.00 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.248 W


The males of the species become sexually mature in as little as four months following birth. Once the male's testes become fully mature, they continue to contain spermatozoa for the rest of the life of the individual. In the Northern Hemisphere, breeding females are found from the end of February until early September (Pearson & Baldwin 1953, Nellis and Everard 1983), and in the Southern Hemisphere from August through February (Gorman 1976).

The duration of pregnancy is 49 days. A litter typically consists of two young, but as many as five have been recorded (Nellis and Everard 1983). (Gorman, 1976; Nellis and Everard, 1983; Pearson and Baldwin, 1953)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs during the summer months of the year.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    49 days
  • Average gestation period
    49 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    301 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    122 days



Small Indian mongooses are completely diurnal animals. In captivity, adults take part in many types of play and games of curiosity (Nellis and Everard). Mutual grooming has been observed between captive individuals of either sex, but only between mother and offspring in wild individuals (Nellis and Everard 1983).

Though this is usually described as a solitary species, males have been found to form social groups and even to share burrows, at least during the breeding season (Hays, in review). Behavior that promotes either body warming or cooling has been described by Baldwin. Warming is done in the early hours by exposing as much as possible of the ventral surface to the sun. In hot sunlight they usually cease to be active before panting. When it becomes too hot they seek out the shade and a cool surface on which to lie on their stomachs. If a cool surface is not available, they sometimes scratch away the warm surface soil before lying down (Baldwin et al. 1952). (Baldwin, et al., 1952; Nellis and Everard, 1983)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Several large field studies have revealed the small Indian mongoose to be primarily an insectivore, though it also feeds opportunistically on small vertebrates (studies summarized in Cavallini and Serafini 1995). An early field study of the amount and type of food eaten by a mongoose was done on the small Indian mongoose on the island of Trinidad (Williams 1918). In this study, the nature of their foodstuffs depended largely on the opportunities available. An examination of the stomachs of 180 individuals revealed insects, spiders, snails, slugs, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds, eggs of birds and reptiles, all kinds of rodents, crabs, fish and fruits (Williams 1918). Members of this species have also been known to catch mammals many times their size, up to the size of hares and even the young of white-tailed deer (Seaman & Randall 1962). (Cavallini and Nel, 1995; Seaman and Randall, 1962; Williams, 1918)

Small Indian mongooses, like many other mongoose species, are famous for their killing techniques, particular when it comes to venomous snakes such as fer-de-lance and habu pit vipers, which they kill in captivity. Vertebrate prey is usually killed with a bite to the back of the head (Ewer 1977). (Ewer, 1977)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This mongoose was introduced into many nations of the West Indies, beginning in the 1870s, for the purpose of controlling rats in sugar cane plantations. In 1883 they were imported to the Hawaiian Islands for the same reason. Both cases proved to be among the most disastrous attempts ever made at biological control. In both instances the mongoose not only did tremendous damage on its own account (extirpating many native species), but at best only partially reduced the populations of rats (Hinton & Dunn 1967). (Hinton and Dunn, 1967)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No study has checked whether small Indian mongooses in their native range affect humans. Populations in many areas of introduction carry rabies, and immense programs are occasionally needed to control these populations (Nellis and Everard 1983). Introduced populations have also driven at least one bird species extinct, and have extirpated dozens of vertebrates from islands around the world, including many endangered species (Hays and Conant, in review). (Nellis and Everard, 1983)

Conservation Status

Its conservation is not an issue; in fact in the West Indies and Hawaiian islands control measures are necessary and expensive.


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


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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


flesh of dead animals.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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

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.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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).


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.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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


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


Baldwin, P., C. Schwartz, E. Schwartz. 1952. Life hitory and economic status of the mongoose in Hawaii. Journal Mammal, 33: 335-356.

Cavallini, P., J. Nel. 1995. Comparative behavior and ecology of two sympatric mongoose species (Cynictis penicillata and Galerella pulverulenta). South African Journal of Zoology, 30: 46-49.

Corbet, G., J. Hill. 1992. The Mammals of the Indomalayan Region. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ewer, R. 1977. The Carnivores. New York: Cornell University Press.

Gorman, M. 1976. Seasonal changes in the reproductive pattern of feral Herpestes auropunctatus in the Fijian Islands. Journal of Zoology, 178: 237-246.

Hays, W., S. Conant. Impact of the small Indian mongoose (*Herpestes javanicus*) (Carnivora: Herpestidae) on native vertebrate populations in areas of introduction. Pacific Science, ~in review~.

Hays, W., S. Conant. Male social activity in the small Indian mongoose, *Herpestes javanicus*. Acta Theriologica, ~in review~.

Hinton, H., A. Dunn. 1967. Mongooses: Their Natural History & Behavior. London: Oliver & Boyd Ltd.

Nellis, D., C. Everard. 1983. The biology of the mongoose in the Caribbean. Studies of the fauna of Curacae and other Caribbean islands, 195: 1-162.

Ogura, G., M. Sakashita, Y. Kawashima. 1998. External morphology and classification of mongoose on Okinawa island. Honyurui Kagaku, 38: 259-270.

Pearson, O., P. Baldwin. 1953. Reproduction and age structure of a mongoose population in Hawaii. Journal Mammal, 34: 436-447.

Schrieber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. An action plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses and their Relatives, 2: 43-46.

Seaman, G., J. Randall. 1962. The mongoose as a predator in the Virgin Islands. Journal Mammal, 43: 544-546.

Tomich, P. 1979. Studies of leptospirosis in natural host populations. 1 Small mammals of Waipio valley, island of Hawaii. Pacific Science, 33: 257-279.

Tyrtkovic, N., B. Krysufek. 1990. Small Indian mongoose, Herpestes auropunctatus (Hodgson 1936) on the Adriatic Islands of Yugoslavia. Bonner Zoologische Beitrage, 41: 3-8.

Williams, C. 1918. The food habits of the mongoose in Trinidad. Bulletin of Dept. of Agriculture of Trinidad & Tobago, 17: 167-186.