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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Short-tailed Mongoose

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5




Family : Herpestidae
Species : Herpestes brachyurus

Head-body length : up to 45 cm
Tail length : up to 25 cm
Weight : up to 2 kg

The Short-tailed Mongoose (or Water Mongoose) inhabits primary or mature secondary forest, but may enter adjacent degraded forest, plantations (e.g. Acacia) or cultivated areas. On mainland Southeast Asia it appears restricted to lowland areas below ~100 metres in elevation, but in some parts of Borneo, where it may be locally common, it can be found at higher elevations of  1500 metres or more.

The species is mainly active by day on the forest floor, where it searches for a range of prey items including small vertebrates and arthropods such as crabs, spiders, insects etc. It is solitary in habits and territorial. A study in Krau Wildlife Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia (Jenning et al, 2010) revealed a mean home range size of 233 hectares for males and 132 hectares for females.

Its body is slender, its legs are short, and its  tail is just over 50% of the combined length of the head and body. Its head is relatively small and its snout is pointed.

Its fur is typically blackish to dark brown, with subtle pale brown tinges and pale brown throat and chin. Geographic variations in fur colour are documented, although the reasons for this appear largely unstudied.

The Short-tailed Mongoose occurs in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. It may also occur on the Philippine islands of Palawan and Calamian, but some researchers identify these populations as the Collared Mongoose. There is an historical record from Singapore (which may not have been a native animal), but there are no recent records.

Fig 1 : Specimen from lowland primary forest in Peninsular Malaysia at an elevation of around 60 metres. The animal was exploring a clear stream in a steep, forested gully.

Fig 2 : Example from Panti Forest, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. The animal was exploring an area of freshwater swamp forest early one morning.

Fig 3 : Another specimen from Panti Forest, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia, traversing a swampy pool in the mid-afternoon sun.

Figs 4 and 5 : Exploring the forest floor during a dry spell.

References : M2, M5

Jenning, A., Zubaid, A. and Veron G. (2010) Home ranges, movements and activity of the short-tailed mongoose (Herpestes brachyurus) on Peninsular Malaysia.  Mammalia. Volume 74, Issue 1, Pp 4350.