08 June 2010

Weaseling Abound

The other new species I photographed at Tygerberg last week was a bit of a surprise to me. It is a African Striped Weasel (Slangmuishond).

I'm sure of my identification, but had to convince some of the people from Tygerberg (and City of Cape Town). It can easily be confused with a Striped Polecat. It is always best to be as sure as possible of an identification, especially for a rare and somewhat out of range find like this, so questions are welcome (and usually fun to talk about). So, how can I be sure? Easy, the simplest way to tell them apart is by the white facial marking of the Striped Polecat, which the African Striped Weasel does not have (clearly visible below). There are other things also, but the facial markings and hair length are the easiest.

African Striped Weasel (Slangmuishond - Poecilogale albinucha) popping out from amongst the ground cover

Some interesting facts about this little creature is that, together with the Dwarf Mongoose, it is Africa's smallest carnivore. It is a specialist rodent killer, but will sometimes also eat birds and insects. Their short legs and long, thin body is perfectly adapted to follow rodents into their hiding places. It bites it's prey on the back of the neck, rolls sideways to knock it off its feet, clasps it tightly and then thrust vigorously with its hind feet to break the animals spine.

They are good diggers and will dig their own burrows or adapt those dug by rodents. They are very short and their shoulder height is only 5-6 cm. Males are up to 50% larger  than females.

A weasel darting past the camera

African Striped Weasels are predominantly nocturnal and are only occasionally seen in daylight. They are considered rare, but are easily overlooked, due to their small size and nightly habits.

I'm hoping for some more photographs of this guy during week :)

Chris and Tilde Stuart (2008). Veldgids tot Soogdiere van Suider-Afrika. Kaapstad: Struik Uitgewers. 142-143.
Gus Mills and Lex Hes (1997). The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: Struik Winchester. 203.
John D. Skinner and Christian T. Chimimba (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press. 505-507.


  1. What a coup!
    I've never seen a weasel either, of course. It's facial marks are very like a honey badger's, and I hadn't realised that their tails are all white.
    You'll be getting a unicorn or a tokolosh soon.

  2. Yes, the face does look like a badger’s, just a lot smaller. Maybe I should have posted some other images that help to show the size. There are a few with a mouse in almost the same position…

    I’ve also never seen a weasel in real life :( But getting one on a camera trap is a very welcome alternative, and it makes it easier to share with others :)

    I’m not sure about Unicorns in this habitat, but I was thinking of pointing the camera a bit more upwards to try and get some pictures of one of the local Pegasus (Pegasi?) flying past…