The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.

Monday Minute

Meet the neighbors: Small Mammals

Jared Moeller, Animal Care Curator September 6, 2021

In previous editions of the Monday Minute, you’ve been introduced to the animals that will call the large multi-species habitats of the Rhino Savanna home. This new expansion not only highlights the large charismatic ungulates and birds of arid ecosystems, but also some thrilling small mammals. Guests will see small carnivores foraging above ground in two outdoor habitats, while also getting a glimpse of how these small mammal species behave and live underground. 

Naked Mole Rat

Despite having a face only a mother could love, I guarantee you will fall in love with the naked mole rats. Why? Because everyone does and they are perhaps the most fascinating species in the entire Rhino Savanna habitat!

Naked mole rats are the only eusocial species of mammal. What that means is, socially speaking, they have more in common with bees and ants than they do any other mammal. Each colony of naked mole rats has a single queen, who is the only member of the colony to breed and produce offspring. Each time a queen mole rat gets pregnant and gives birth, her spinal column grows longer. This gives her the ability to continually produce larger litters of pups. The other individuals within the colony are the workers who forage, care for the pups, and maintain the tunnels.

Did You Know...

Naked mole rats can live to be over 30 years old, have a resistance to cancer, and cannot feel certain types of pain. And that just scratches the surface of what you’ll discover about these fascinating rodents!

Dwarf Mongoose

Dwarf Mongoose are not just the smallest mongoose species, they are the smallest member of the order Carnivora native to Africa. Their coat is a solid reddish-brown color, and they range widely from Eastern to Southern Africa. Highly social, dwarf mongoose form groups, or troops, of up to 30 individuals. They spend their days foraging for small reptiles, birds, rodents, and of course their favorites, insects and other invertebrates. 

Did You Know...

Dwarf mongoose often work together with some of the smaller hornbill species in a mutually beneficial relationship to better protect each other from predators. Dwarf mongoose have even been known to be hesitant to leave their dens without hornbills to accompany them.

Banded Mongoose

Banded mongoose are easily distinguished from their smaller cousins not just by their larger size, but their greyish brown fur, which as the name suggests, has a striped pattern down their backs. They are more widely distributed and their range overlaps significantly with that of the dwarf mongoose. Banded mongoose have a similar diet to dwarf mongoose, but due to their size, they can tackle larger prey. They have also been observed grooming ticks off warthogs!

Did You Know...

Like all mongoose species, banded mongoose are not immune to snake venom. This is a common misconception. What allows mongoose to prey upon these dangerous snakes is their fantastic reflexes and agility.

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