WATER MONGOOSE – Atilax paludinosus

SIZE: Length (including tail) 85 cm, mass 3,5 kg.

COLOUR: Varies from reddish-brown to brownish black, with a glossy sheen. The head and the underparts may be a little lighter than the back.

MOST LIKE: The Cape Clawless Otter but only two-thirds as long and only a quarter as heavy. Uniform brownish underparts without silver-white chin, throat and upper chest of clawless otter. Tail is bushy brown, not short haired.

HABITAT: Well watered country close to rivers, marshes, vleis and dams, and near reeds, water lilies and other semi-aquatic vegetation.

The water mongoose is a good swimmer, although it often simply wades in to shallow water to acquire its daily food ration of frogs, crabs, shellfish, rats, snakes, mice and insects; it also eats birds and birds' eggs.

The mongoose uses the long-clawed digits of its forelegs to gouge crabs out of their shelters in river banks. Water mongoose are solitary, although adult females may be accompanied by juveniles. They will head for water if pursued, and will remain still, totally submerged except for the nose, in a reed bed until the danger is past.

When the marsh dries up, the mongoose will switch to a terrestrial diet; they will also wander some distance from water in search of new feeding grounds. Two young are born per litter.


The Water Mongoose is an elusive animal, which frequents reeds and other vegetation margining rivers and dams. It is normally dark brown in colour, with soft, woolly underfur and coarse outer, or 'guard' hair, which has a glossy sheen.