Whilst volunteering to work at Kevin Richardson’s Lion Sanctuary near Johannesburg, we came across Monster and Agua, two water mongooses. Or is it water mongeese? No idea! Whatever. They were the cutest and most playful animals we had ever come across.
They were found in the bush as baby orphans and rescued, to be raised in captivity in the volunteers compound within a large enclosure. Apparently both were starving and quite dehydrated, probably victims of their mother being killed leaving them to wander with no skills to feed themselves.
A brand new pen was incidentally under construction, with all sorts of new water features for them to play in as that was obviously the highlight of their day.
Water mongoose have a coarse, shaggy dark brown coat. They are confined to the African continent, south of the Sahara, and are usually found wherever there is water, be it dams, rivers, swamps or streams. Having said that, they are very elusive and hard to find in the wild. While obviously closely associated with water as their name would be a dead give away, they can wander some distance from it, in search of new feeding grounds or foraging. Some have been seen up to a kilometre away from water in dry woodland.
Whilst mostly active at dawn or dusk, these guys loved interacting with humans, especially if brought some sort of treat. Water mongoose in the wild tend to eat crab, prawn or fish, but these guys loved banana or eggs to eat. Eggs seemed to be a personal favourite of theirs, and how they handled them was very funny to watch. They treated them so delicately as they carried them off to their concrete house, where they would then throw them against a wall or the floor to crack them and slurp up the hidden delicacy inside.
The funniest time was when we had an opportunity to empty out their pond and re-fill it with fresh water. Oh my god, that was heaven on a stick for them, and they went berserk, running in and out, swimming, splashing and then running around! Yes, it was pretty hard to stay dry on that occasion as they were all over us too!
A water mongoose is a very curious creature. Well, these were. They had the most delicate little hands and claws with which they would probe your pockets, shoes, socks, anywhere they could get a hand into in fact I couldn’t believe how deep they would go into our pockets. They also loved to bite your socks or shoe laces, which they could undo in a flash and then grab and try to run off with them. Mobile phones in pockets was a real delight and would keep them focussed for hours trying to grab one. Maybe they wanted to [ET] phone home?
[Photos and Videos by Tony and Irene Isaacson]