One of the questions that gets asked by guests is whether the lockdown affected the behaviour of animals. With only a limited number of vehicles on the reserve during the lockdown, this naturally resulted in animals coming into contact with vehicles a lot more seldom. Based on discussions with the wildlife team, guides and the anti-poaching units, there does not appear to have been any noticeable change in animals’ behaviour, which is encouraging as it means that life goes on, with or without humans! What was however noticeable was how animals were not scared to take advantage of the lack of guests, with a family of banded mongoose having taken up residence under the canvas covers in the Tented Camp boma area. This, unfortunately, was only discovered much later, with the covers put in place to protect the cushions and scatters, but also serving as the ideal place for the family to reside by providing warmth, comfort and shelter! With no guests around, they certainly managed to make the best of the situation, although there was a distinct lack of social distancing observed!
The banded mongoose must be one of my favourite animals, with my earliest recollection being in Main Camp in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. We were camping and just lighting up the fire when an oom came running past in hot pursuit of a banded mongoose who had raided his tent and had a string of sausages in his mouth which it had claimed as its prize. Banded mongooses are omnivores although feed mainly on invertebrates, and in particular beetles and termites. The colony will forage in a group, with a number of the members of the group regularly standing on their hind legs in order to get a better look at potential danger. I have even seen them climb trees in order to get a better visual, and it is absolutely fascinating sitting and listening to them communicating with one another, which they do through a series of grunts and whistles which is really the strangest sound you can possibly imagine, especially when coming from 20 or 30 mongooses all at the same time!
While small, weighing only between 1 and 1.5kg, they are incredibly good at self-defence, and will act collectively and mob their attackers in order to scare them off when threatened. They are predated on by leopard, jackal, serval, caracal, snakes as well as predatory birds. They live in colonies comprising of up to 40 individuals, although individuals may move from one colony to another which helps the spread of genes. Typically, they use abandoned termite mounds as their dens, although move around frequently, so at least they would not have called the Tented Camp boma area as home for long!
Love from Thanda Safari.