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Contained in the complicated and very violent world of warring mongooses

Banded mongooses have lengthy been used as a mannequin of animal cooperation. Now, researchers in Uganda are beginning to familiarize yourself with the cruel realities of their long-running and bloody battles


30 January 2023

Banded mongoose group approaching with curiosity (Mungos mungo). Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. March 2018.

Banded mongooses reside in colonies of between eight and 55 people and sometimes begin wars with rivals

Anup Shah/getty photographs

WHEN you first encounter a band of banded mongooses, your preliminary intuition is to suppose: “Aww! They’re so lovely, so cute, so fluffy.” My first encounter with them was in Queen Elizabeth Nationwide Park in western Uganda, which is gorgeous and thick with wildlife.

I used to be underneath the professional eye of Robert Businge, one of many researchers on the Banded Mongoose Analysis Undertaking based mostly there. Businge positioned the group with a radio tracker and made a particular name: pu-pu-pu-pu-pu. Out of the bushes tumbled seven bundles of chirruping, inquisitive enthusiasm. He checked they had been all current and proper, recorded some knowledge, then advised me a horror story about beheadings.

The extra I discovered about banded mongooses, the extra I understood simply how misleading appearances could be. They’re aggressively violent animals that wage warfare on neighbouring teams, brutally murdering and maiming their rivals. They ruthlessly expel shut family members from their group and kill them in the event that they received’t go away, commit infanticide – generally in opposition to their very own offspring – and even have interaction in cannibalism. “Their entire society is constructed round warmongering,” says venture chief Michael Cant on the College of Exeter, UK.

Such brutal, organised violence is uncommon within the animal kingdom. I had come to the park to attempt to see it for myself, watching because the researchers put mongooses on a warfare footing with their enemies’ faeces and a Bluetooth speaker, and took drone footage to disclose new particulars about this ugly behaviour. These experiments …

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