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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2021



Crab-eating Mongoose

Family : Herpestidae
Species : Herpestes urva

Head-body length : up to 48 cm
Tail length : up to 31 cm
Weight : up to 4 kg

This relatively large species of mongoose occurs in a variety of habitats including mainly primary evergreen forest and tall secondary forest, but sometimes in degraded scrub. It is diurnal in habits (Rayan & Shariff, 2008).

Its sense of smell and hearing are well developed, and it generally avoids encounters with humans. It is able to squirt a strong-smelling fluid from glands at the base of its tail as a form of defence.

The species feeds on aquatic fauna such as frogs, fish, crabs and molluscs, and is an excellent swimmer. Its presence in hilly or montane regions (up to 2100 metres elevation), where watercourses support fewer aquatic fauna, suggests it has an adaptable prey base. Figure 3 shows one excavating the nest of an Impressed Tortoise Manouria impressa, probably searching for eggs.

This mongoose is identified by its size, its relatively short tail and its thick fur. Its head is small, its back is hunched and its legs are short and thin. 

Its fur is markedly grizzled ('agouti'), with individual hairs banded from dark brown to pale brown. There is a pale stripe running horizontally from below the ear towards the neck region.

The Crab-eating Mongoose is wide-ranging. Outside the region it occurs in Nepal, Bangladesh, parts of northern India and southern and eastern China (including Taiwan). In Southeast Asia it is to be found in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia.

In Peninsular Malaysia, as of 2016, there are no records south of Ulu Gombak (which is near Kuala Lumpur). It has never been recorded in Singapore.

Figs 1 and 2 : Typical example from Kaeng Krachan, Thailand. Photo thanks to Charles Currin.

Fig 3 : Example from lower montane forest on the Malay Peninsula, digging in the nest of an Impressed Tortoise Manouria impressa, probably searching for eggs.

References : M3, M5

Rayan, D. M. & Shariff, W. M. (2008). New locality records of the Crab-eating Mongoose Herpestes urva in Peninsular Malaysia as revealed by camera-trapping. Small Carnivore Conservation, 39: 25-28.



Fig 1
ゥ  Charles Currin

Fig 2
ゥ  Charles Currin

Fig 3