The Star (Nairobi)

24 November 2012

Kenya: Nairobi Park Diary - the Nocturnal Tracker

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It was getting late. As the sun began to set, the forest area began to darken quickly. I switched on my headlights while driving slowly towards the Langata gate.

There is something special about early mornings and early evenings. It is a transitional time when mainly nocturnal special animals can be seen, especially if it is overcast and the persons are watching carefully.

You never know what might be seen. Hyena, Shrub Hare, Suni or perhaps a Leopard. As I rounded a bend, suddenly three shapes with dark bodies and white tails were highlighted in the road.

After stopping immediately, it was good to see that they were in fact white tailed mongoose. It was an adult with two young ones. They did not seem very concerned and soon moved off into the bush as they seemed to be hunting.

The white tailed mongoose is also known as ichneumon, a greek word which means 'tracker'. Their full scientific name is Ichneumia albicauda (albi -white, cauda - tail).

White-tailed mongoose are nocturnal and feed mostly on insects. Locusts, beetles and mole crickets make up the majority of their diet.

Rats, mice, shrews, lizards, snakes, small birds are also eaten along with the occasional fruits and berries. The eggs of birds are also eaten; they will break open the egg by throwing it between its hind legs against a rock or other hard object.

They were given the name tracker due to their hunting method of continually searching over long distances to find food.

Be on the lookout next time you are in the Nairobi National Park. Nature has many surprises to reveal to those who search patiently.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.

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