Banded mongooses have a coarse brownish-gray coat, dark feet, a black-tipped tail, and dark bands across their back. These bands are found between the mid-back and base of the tail and are a distinguishing feature of this mongoose species. Their front feet have five digits, with long, curved claws, used for scratching and digging. Their hind feet have four digits and also have claws, although these claws are shorter, heavier, and not as curved as the front claws.
Banded mongooses are about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) long with a 6 to 12 inch (15 to 30 centimeters) tail. They weigh 3 to 5.5 pounds (1.5 to 2.5 kilograms).
Banded mongooses are found in Africa, south of the Sahara, except for the Congo and southwestern Africa. They live in open habitat in grasslands, brush lands, woodlands and rocky country. They have a large range and may travel over five miles a day to forage. Banded mongooses will generally stay in one particular den for a few days at a time, a week at most, and will frequently return to favorite sites to re-use them. While they are able to dig their own burrows, banded mongooses will usually use an existing hole created by another animal, or a natural crevice.
They have developed a vocabulary of calls to communicate with each other.
They have anal and cheek glands and will scent-mark their territory. They may also scent mark each other after group separation or a mild scare.
Banded mongooses are primarily insectivorous, but will eat a variety of foods including beetles, crabs, earthworms, fallen fruit, grasshoppers, birds, eggs, rodents, scorpions, slugs, snails, snakes and termites. To break open hard food objects, such as eggs or snails, banded mongooses will throw the object vertically or backwards, between the hind legs and into a stone or other hard object. They are very possessive of food and when they find food they eat it right away; there is no food sharing.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, banded mongooses receive a diet consisting of dry cat food, zoo carnivore diet, mice, mealworms, crickets, apples and root vegetables.
Courtship involves the male chasing the female and circling her with his tail held high, covering her with anal gland secretions. The female also actively participates in courtship, often lying on her back and wrestling with the male. Females may mate with several males within a group.
Gestation lasts two months, and two to six young are born in a litter. Young are born blind and with little hair; their eyes begin to open around day ten. They begin leaving the den for short periods at around four weeks and start to regularly accompany adults on foraging expeditions at five weeks. The female reaches sexual maturity at around nine to ten months of age.
Reproduction may be synchronized within a pack so that females give birth within a few days of each other. All pack members help carry the babies, and any lactating female may suckle the young. When the pack leaves the den to forage, a few females (about one for every eight young) will stay behind to care for the young. One or more males may also stay to help protect them.
Banded mongooses sleep at night and are active during the days.
They live around ten years in the wild and up to 17 years in human care. In the wild, less than 50 percent survive to three months of age.
There are no major threats to the banded mongoose. This species is widespread in its habitat.