Herpestes auropunctatus (small Indian mongoose)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Herpestes auropunctatus (Hodgson, 1836)
Preferred Common Name
- small Indian mongoose
Other Scientific Names
- Herpestes javanicus (E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1818)
- Herpestes palustris (Ghose, 1965)
- Mangusta auropunctata (Hodgson, 1836)
- Urva auropunctata (Hodgson, 1836)
Local Common Names
- Bangladesh: beji
- Germany: Kleiner Mungo
- India: mangus; newla
- Myanmar: mweyba
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Herpestes auropunctatus (small Indian mongoose) is a small, slim-bodied predator native to areas from Iran through India to Myanmar (Burma). It was briefly made synonymous with the Javan mongoose H. javanicus, but is now once again considered to be a separate species. It has been introduced to islands such as Mauritius, Fiji, Hawaii and many in the West Indies (as well as some mainland locations) to control rats, particularly in sugar cane fields. In some locations it was introduced to control poisonous snakes. There have also been some accidental introductions in shipping cargo. Unfortunately, native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates proved to be easier prey than the target species, and the mongoose has been responsible for the probable or certain total extinction of at least three species and for many other local extinctions. It is also a vector for rabies.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Suborder: Fissipeda
- Family: Herpestidae
- Genus: Herpestes
- Species: Herpestes auropunctatus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
In the early 21st century, the small Indian mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus was briefly made synonymous with the Javan mongoose H. javanicus (Wozencraft, 2005). Since then, genetic analysis (Veron et al., 2007) has corroborated the original morphometric studies (Taylor and Goldman 1993; Honacki et al., 1982) that separated the two species. As the individuals from which introduced populations have arisen originated from the distribution range of H. auropunctatus, it is assumed that the introduced populations are all of this species.
There is still some confusion about the various subspecies of the small Indian mongoose. The marsh mongoose H. palustris may well be a subspecies of H. auropunctatus (Prater, 1965). Some of the earlier genus names such as Mangusta and Urva have been recognized as Herpestes, although they still appear even in recent literature (Morley and Winder, 2013).
According to Patou et al. (2009), molecular studies indicate that the genus Herpestes is paraphyletic, but the Asian species form a monophyletic group within it, and H. auropunctatus should be Urva auropunctata. This datasheet retains the old name for the time being.
DescriptionTop of page
The small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) has a slender body with short legs. The head is elongated with a pointed muzzle. The tail is robustly muscular at the base and tapers gradually throughout its length, ending in tufts of slightly longer fur that are prized by paint brush manufacturers (Bailo and Sustic, 2012). Length of head and body is 509 to 671mm. Ears are short and rounded (15-30mm -- Roy, 2001) and project only slightly beyond the fur. Feet have five toes with long sharp non-retractile claws. Hair is short. Both sexes have an extensible anal pad with ducted glands lateral to the anus. Fur is soft, pale to dark brown flecked with golden spots. Underside is paler than rest of body. Eyes are amber/brown but are blue green in young animals. There is distinct sexual dimorphism. Females range in length from 509 to 578mm with a mean of 540mm. Sexual dimorphism is even more pronounced in populations that have been introduced to island ecosystems for over a century or more (Simberloff et al. 2000). Body mass at sexual maturity ranges from 305 to exceptionally just over 1 kg in large adult males with a mean of 434g. Males have a wider head and more robust body ranging in length from 544 to 671mm with a mean of 591mm (Nellis et al. 1989).
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Genetic analysis by Veron et al. (2007) showed that the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) is native to northern Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (south to Sind in the west and Orissa in the east), Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. It may overlap with H. javanicus in Thailand, but this is unlikely. Moving further eastwards, only H. javanicus is found.
Known introduced range: Herpestes auropunctatus has been introduced to the following countries/islands (year of introduction in parentheses): Antigua, Barbados (1877), Beef Island (British Virgin Islands, or BVI), Bosnia-Hercegovina (20th century – Barun et al., 2008), Buck Island (United States Virgin Islands, or USVI) (1910), Croatia (mainland and islands; introduced 1910), Cuba (1866), Fiji (found on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu; introduced 1883), French Guiana, Grenada (1882), Guadeloupe, Guyana, Hawai’i (found on Hawai‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu; introduced 1883), Hispaniola (1895), Jamaica (1872), Japan (found on Okinawa and Amami; introduced 1910), Jost Van Dyke (BVI), La Desirade (Guadeloupe), Lovango (USVI), Mafia (Tanzania), Marie-Galante (Guadeloupe), Martinique, Nevis, Puerto Rico (1887), St. Croix (USVI) (1884), St. John (USVI), St. Kitts (1884), St. Lucia, St. Martin (1888), St. Thomas (USVI), St. Vincent, Suriname (1900), Tortola (BVI), Trinidad (1870), Vieques (Puerto Rico), and Water Island (USVI) (Nellis and Small, 1983; Hays and Conant, 2003). New reports of individuals escaping from cargo (originating from Fiji) onto the islands of Upolu (Samoa) and Tonga occurred in 2010 (escapees later captured) and 2016, respectively (Barun et al., 2011; Cranwell, 2016). The species may also have reached Kaua’i in Hawaii (Duffy et al., 2015). A well-established but newly discovered population was also recently found in Kyushu, Japan (Watari and Nagata, 2011), and the Croatian population has spread to Montenegro (Ćirović et al., 2011). (For locations where the source is not cited in this paragraph, citations can be found in the Distribution table).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Comoros||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1950s|
|Mauritius||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1900-1902|
|-Maluku Islands||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Ambon|
|Japan||Present, Localized||Introduced||1910||Invasive||Okinawa, Amami, Kyushu|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 20th century|
|Croatia||Present, Localized||Introduced||1910||Invasive||Adriatic coast and islands|
|Montenegro||Present, Localized||Introduced||1988||Invasive||Original citation: Cirovic et al. (2011)|
|North Macedonia||Absent, Formerly present||1910||Original location reported: Macedonia|
|Serbia||Absent, Formerly present||1957|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Antigua; First reported: late 19th century|
|Bahamas||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Barbados||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||1884||Invasive|
|Cuba||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Dominica||Absent, Formerly present||1880|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Guadeloupe||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Haiti||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Honduras||Absent, Formerly present||Introduced to control snakes but does not appear to have become permanently established; First reported: 1948-1955; Original citation: A. German, IUCN, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, personal communication, 2018|
|Netherlands Antilles||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Nellis and Everard (1983)|
|Panama||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Puerto Rico||Present, Widespread||Introduced||1877||Invasive|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Saint Lucia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Saint Martin||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1875 - 1895|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Introduced||Invasive||St. Vincent; First reported: late 19th century|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Introduced||1870||Invasive|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||1884||Invasive|
|-Florida||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Strays caught, but no recorded introduction|
|Australia||Absent, Formerly present||1880|
|Samoa||Absent, Formerly present||2010|
|Tonga||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||2016||Invasive|
|French Guiana||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Guyana||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: late 19th century|
|Suriname||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Nellis and Everard (1983)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Since the late 19th century Herpestes auropunctatus has been introduced to many islands, such as Mauritius, Fiji, the West Indies and Hawaii, to control rats, particularly in sugar cane fields. In a few locations, it was introduced to control poisonous snakes: the horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) on Adriatic islands of Croatia, Bothrops lanceolatus and B. caribbaeus in the West Indies, and the habu pit viper (Trimeresurus flavoviridis or Protobothrops flavoviridis) on the islands of Okinawa and Amami in Japan (Barun et al., 2011; Watari et al., 2008). Unsuccessful attempts were made to introduce it to North America and Australia (Barun et al., 2011). Following its various introductions, it then spread throughout local areas within decades. It has also recently been introduced by accident in shipping cargo (Barun et al. 2011; Cranwell 2016).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Although the introduced populations in mainland South America do not appear to have spread far, those in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina are spreading and have reached Montenegro, and there is concern that the species could spread more widely in south-eastern Europe and affect areas of high biodiversity (Barun et al., 2008; Ćirović et al., 2011).
There is a risk that the species might be deliberately moved by people for pest control purposes. Also, it occasionally boards shipping containers and could be spread to new locations in this way. Florida is noted as being at risk (Berentsen et al., 2017).
Climate change could allow further spread, by increasing the area with a warm enough climate for the species.
HabitatTop of page
Habitat preferences of Herpestes auropunctatus in its native range have not been investigated, but it seems that it prefers grassland and secondary growth to dense forest. Mongooses are also found around human habitation. It is reported to prefer dry habitats and this is supported by the observation that trap success falls to zero in rainy weather in most cases (Roy, 2001). Studies on Caribbean islands have shown a clear preference for dry natural areas over rainy areas. Mongooses reach high population density in Hawai’i and in this case they begin to exploit wet areas (Hays and Conant, 2003). In Mauritius they tend to be found in rocky areas, riparian habitats and mature forest over scrub, long grass (sugar cane plantations), short grass and paths (Roy et al., 2002). In Puerto Rico male mongooses from the rain forest areas were larger than those in dry forests (Vilella, 1998).
The species requires a warm climate (Baldwin (1954), which may be a limiting factor in its spread.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Herpestes auropunctatus breeds two or three times a year, with no real breeding season, though there are breeding peaks. Two litters of three young per female are born per year.
Gestation lasts 42-50 days; the young are weaned at about 5 weeks of age, and reach sexual maturity at 10 months.
Total life expectancy in wild animals is 3-4 years.
The diet of H. auropunctatus has not been investigated in the native range but there have been a large number of studies on the subject in the introduced range. The species is omnivorous and has a very varied diet, normally consisting of mammals, birds, herpetofauna, invertebrates and plant material. The proportions of these dietary items vary according to availability and the location of the study. Some populations are largely insectivorous; others may eat a diet largely consisting of fruit for part of the year (Hays and Conant, 2003; Gorman, 1975). This high level of dietary flexibility has contributed to the success of H. auropunctatus as an invasive species.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
See the separate sections on environmental and social impact.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Biodiversity
Herpestes auropunctatus has had a major impact on native species in the areas where it has been introduced, and threatens a large number of species which cannot all be listed here. In most cases the native animals in these areas evolved in the absence of predatory mammals, so they are particularly threatened by mongoose predation. A number of native, endemic and threatened prey species have been recorded in the diet of H. auropunctatus in the Caribbean, Fiji, Japan and Cuba (Roy et al., 2002; Nellis and Everard, 1983; Watari et al., 2008; Borroto-Páez, 2009).
Species considered to have been driven extinct through mongoose predation are the barred-wing rail Hypotaenidia poeciloptera (H. woodfordi or Nesoclopeus poecilopterus) in Fiji (IUCN, 2016) and the Hispaniola racer Hypsirhynchus melanichnus (Alsophis melanichnus) in Hispaniola (Hays and Conant, 2003), although the latter is still classified by IUCN as Critically Endangered (IUCN, 2018). The critically endangered and possibly extinct Jamaica petrel (Pterodroma caribbaea) suffered drastic decline in numbers in the 19th century presumably due to predation by mongooses and rats (IUCN, 2016). One author suggests that 25% of known island reptile extinctions in the previous 200 years are due to mongooses (Honegger, 1980).
Mongooses have also been implicated in the decline of many other bird, reptile and mammal species (they also eat invertebrates but the impact of this predation on invertebrate populations has not been studied). On St. John Island in the US Virgin Islands H. auropunctatus is a major predator of hawksbill turtle eggs (Eretmochelys imbricata), and trapping around vulnerable beaches led to much greater breeding success for the turtles (Coblentz and Coblentz, 1985; Nellis and Small, 1983). Mongooses on Mauritius have been blamed for the extirpation of introduced game birds and the Audobon’s shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri) (Cheke, 1987; note though that according to Avibase (2018), this species is not found in Mauritius, and it is presumably a related species that was affected there), as well as contributing to the decline of endemic species such as the endangered pink pigeon Streptopelia mayeri (Columba mayeri or Nesoenas mayeri) (Roy et al., 2002). In Japan H. auropunctatus has been shown to have a strong negative effect on the endangered Amami rabbit Pentalagus furnessi (Watari et al., 2008).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Streptopelia mayeri||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Mauritius||Predation||Roy et al. (2002)|
|Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species||United States Virgin Islands||Predation||Coblentz and Coblentz (1985); Nellis and Small (1983)|
|Pentalagus furnessi (Amami rabbit)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Japan||Predation||Watari (2008)|
|Pterodroma caribbaea (Jamaica petrel)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)||Jamaica||Predation||IUCN (2016)|
|Puffinus||No Details||Mauritius||Predation||Cheke (1987)|
|Agelaius xanthomus (yellow-shouldered blackbird)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species||Puerto Rico||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (1996)|
|Peltophryne lemur (Puerto Rican crested toad)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened species||Puerto Rico||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (1992)|
|Pseudonestor xanthophrys (Maui parrotbill)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2006)|
|Eleutherodactylus jasperi (golden coqui)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened species||Puerto Rico||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
|Pterodroma sandwichensis||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)||Hawaii||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2011a)|
|Puffinus newelli||USA ESA listing as threatened species; EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)||Hawaii||Predation||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2011b)|
Social ImpactTop of page
Herpestes auropunctatus can act as a vector for rabies (Everard and Everard, 1992).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Has high reproductive potential
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Pest and disease transmission
UsesTop of page
Herpestes javanicus was introduced as a biocontrol agent to control rats in sugarcane fields, or in some cases to control poisonous snakes, but was not particularly effective for either purpose, and the enormous cost to native species far outweighed any benefit.
The tufts of slightly longer fur at the end of the tail are prized by paint brush manufacturers (Bailo and Sustic, 2012).
Uses ListTop of page
- Biological control
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Herpestes auropunctatus is very similar in appearance to H. javanicus, and the two can only be distinguished with certainty by genetic methods, but it is known (on the basis of information about where individuals were introduced from) that only H. auropunctatus is present in its introduced range (S. Roy, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, personal communication, 2018); the only other mongoose species found in the introduced range of H. auropunctatus is H. fuscus, which according to Veron et al. (2010) has been introduced to Fiji.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
There is concern in Mauritius that removing mongooses without also removing cats and rats will be disastrous for native species because it may lead to increased rat and cat populations (Roy et al., 2002).
Detection and Inspection Methods
Dogs are being trained as part of the detection of the species at low densities (Fukuhara et al., 2010).
Trapping is commonly used to remove Herpestes auropunctatus from sensitive areas. It is often very successful at removing animals in the short term, but unfortunately trapping programmes need to be run almost constantly as mongooses re-colonise trapped areas very quickly (Roy et al., 2002; Hays and Conant, 2007). Fencing has been proposed as a possible control method in Mauritius but predator-proof fences are expensive, and inflexible if the area that needs to be protected changes (Ogura et al., 2007).
BibliographyTop of page
See References section.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
28/11/2016: Updated for ISC by:
Dr. Sugoto Roy, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland
Reviewed for ISSG (17/09/2010) by: Dr. Sugoto Roy (Coordinator); Hebridean Mink Project. Central Science Laboratory Sand Hutton, York, UK
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