Yellow mongoose, southern Africa, 50 cm (20 in) long The mongoose family includes the 34 species of mongoose and the meerkat. Their home range is Asia, Africa, and southern Europe, but they have also been introduced to other areas. They are mainly solitary animals, but the dwarf and banded mongooses live and forage for food in colonies. Equipped with long claws that are good for digging, they feed mostly on insects, worms, lizards, snakes, birds, eggs and rodents. They use their strong sense of smell to locate prey, as well as carcasses to scavenge. A few species, such as the Indian grey mongoose, prey on venomous snakes, such as cobras.
Each dwarf mongoose pack contains one dominant pair, together with their offspring and some "immigrants", other individuals that have been allowed to join. There may be more than 20 animals in each pack. Both males and females may leave one pack and join another. Care of the young is shared by "babysitters" in the pack, while the adults forage for food.
Like both the banded mongoose and the meerkat, the dwarf mongooses rely on a sentry system in which each pack member takes it in turns to scan the surroundings—including the skies above—for predators. The sentry sits on a high point, for example, a termite mound, for a better view. A loud series of alarm calls sends the animals scattering for cover.
Meerkats are immune to the powerful venom of scorpions.
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