Mongooses can be found throughout most of Africa. They are generally terrestrial animals that live in burrows but some are semi-aquatic and others spend most of their time in the treetops. Contrary to popular belief, these furry creatures are not rodents and are in fact members of the Herpestidae family, which also includes civets and meerkats.
They range in size from 18 centimetres (7 inches) long to 60 centimetres (2 feet) long. These mammals are non-discriminatory predators that feed on small animals such as birds, reptiles, rodents, frogs, insects and worms.
There are 34 species of mongoose and some are very social, living in large groups called colonies and chattering to each other incessantly. To communicate with each other they combine discrete units of sound that resembles human speech, using vowel and syllable combinations to coordinate group movements and to give important messages.
Mongooses have a legendary reputation as snake fighters. One species, the Indian grey mongoose, is famous for fighting and eating poisonous snakes such as cobras.