We have a new critter of the week! This week we are taking a look at the mongoose:
Mongooses (yes, the proper plural is mongooses) are a group of small weasel like mammals, originally from Asia. Here in the West Indies, including the Virgin Islands, the species of mongoose is called the Small Indian Mongoose. Native to India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the mongoose was introduced to the Virgin Islands in the 1800’s. They were brought here due to their fierce predatory habits, and it was hoped that they would help to eliminate destructive rats on the sugar plantations. It is an often repeated fact here in the Virgin Islands that the tree rats are nocturnal, while mongooses hunt during the day. Mongooses also do not climb trees, so they wer not effective in controlling tree rat populations. The mongooses adapted well, though, and they are now quite common. They can be seen especially easily in the national park on St. John, and at Magens Bay on St. Thomas.
Despite the success of the species, they are still considered a destructive pest. They have no natural predators in the West Indies, and as such their population has exploded. They are especially adept at hunting snakes and lizards, and within the Caribbean, they have been responsible for no less than 7 extinctions. While dangerous to snakes, they pose virtually no threat to humans. They are quite curious though, and will often follow hikers down the trail for a bit.
Even with it’s status as a pest here, the mongoose is still a big part of local pop culture. You can find many things named after them including shopping centers, and even an anti-litter campaign mascot. The mongoose has become a classic part of Virgin Islands culture.
Come visit our islands to see a mongoose, and for a chance to see one while zipping through the trees give us a call here at Tree Limin’ Extreme at 340-777-9477, or visit our website at www.ziplinestthomas.com.
-The TLE Zoology Unit