Crab-eating Mongoose (Herpestes urva)


HB:440-480; T: 265-310; HF: 90-109; E: 29-35; W: 3-4kg.

The crab eating mongoose is usually dark brown to grey in colour, with the individual hairs ringed black and white. The chin is white, the front of the throat is blackish, the chest is dark brown and the belly is a lighter brown. The legs are brownish black. The tail is ochraceous towards the tip. There is a long white patch running from the corner of the mouth up to the shoulder. This is a large mongoose, with the tail less than two thirds the lenght of the head and body. It as anal glands about the size of a cherry, and as the power to squirt out a foetid fluid from then backwards at great force. The skull is large and heavy, but with relatively small crests. the bullae is less flat than in H. javanicus and extends to well below the occipital condyle. Mature individuals have a complete bony orbit, and immatures have an incomplete one.The dentition is typical of mongooses, but the lower first premolar may be lacking immatures. The last lower molar is small but complex.

Range Description:

This species is found in Bangladesh (Ashan, 1989), SE China (Wang and Fuller, 2001, 2003), Lao PDR (Duckworth, 1997), Peninsular Malaysia (Lim, 2001, Wells and Francis, 1988, Laidlaw pers. comm.), Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. in press.), Lao PDR, Nepal, North eastern India, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia (Wilson and Reeder, 2005, Van Rompaey, 2001). It is rarely found on high mountains (Van Rompaey, 2001), but it has been collected at 1650 m (Kurseong, Bengal, India; Pocock, 1941). From 16 records at 10 sites in Lao PDR, 14 are from over 450 m, suggesting that this species occurs, at least in south and central Lao PDR, mostly in hills and mountains (Van Rompaey, 2001). In Cambodia and Vietnam, its range extends down to the plains (150 m) and to sea level in Hong Kong.
Countries: Native:
Bangladesh; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Nepal; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Vietnam


 In watered edge habitats amid largely natural vegetation, this is a common species in Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia, Myanmar. However, outside of this preferred habitat and in some portions of its range the species is uncommon or rare (Gyldenstolpe, 1916; Inglis et al., 1919; Delacour, 1940; Khan, 1982; Duckworth, 1997; Choudhury, 1997a; 1997b; 1999). However, it is uncommon in the Jalpaiguiri District, Bengal, India (Inglis et al. 1919), while it is common in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and North Bengal, India (Choudhury, 1997a; 1997b; 1999). It's rare in Bangladesh (Khan, 1982) and relatively common in Vietnam (Delacour, 1940). Today in Lao it is common in forested areas in north and central (Duckworth 1997, Duckworth and Robichaud 2005). It is widespread in northern Viet Nam north of Thanh Hoa, but in small numbers (Pham Trong Anh, 1980, 1982). It is common in the forests between Thailand and Tenasserim (Peninsular Myanmar) (Gyldenstolpe, 1916). Very common in the Hukaung valley of North Myanmar, widespread and at least frequent in the Northern two-thirds of the country (Than Zaw et al. in press.).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology:

 This species has been recorded mainly near water, in evergreen and deciduous forest, scrubby areas, in plantations and near human settlements (Pham Trong Anh, 1980; Duckworth et al, 1997; Van Rompaey, 2001, Than Zaw et al. in press). It has been recorded up to 1,650 m (Pocock, 1941; Duckworth, 1997; Van Rompaey, 2001). It is diurnal in at least Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, despite earlier statements it was nocturnal, which were based on very little real evidence (reviewed in Than Zaw et al. (in press) (Pham Trong Anh, 1992; Duckworth, 1997, Long and Minh Hoang 2006, Roberton et al. in prep., Than Zaw et al. in press., J. Walstone pers. comm.). Wang and Fuller (2001) conducted a study on the food habits of this species in Southeastern China and found that it ate mammals, reptiles, insects and crustaceans. In Lao PDR, this species is found in evergreen forest (including degraded areas), mainly near water; the most recent records are from hill and mountainous areas (Duckworth et al, 1999). In Thailand, Cambodia and southern Viet Nam this species is found also in deciduous forest. In India this species is found in lowland wet-evergreen forests, secondary forest and areas around industrial areas (i.e. oil refineries). There are records from rice fields and other agricultural areas, and even near human settlements (Pham Trong Anh, 1980). However, in Assam, India, it has not been observed near human habitations (Choudhury, 1997). Little is known about its breeding, though the gestation period is thought to be about nine weeks; probably meaning that this species reproduces more slowly than Herpestes javanicus (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It feeds on fish, frogs, crabs, molluscs, insects and crayfish (Van Rompaey, 2001).

It is readily approached by humans due to its apparent nearsightedness (Van Rompaey, 2001), and fearlessness (Pocock, 1941). It has lived up to 13 years and 4 months in captivity (Jones, 1982). Wang and Fuller (2001) conducted a study on the ecology of this species near Taohong Village in northern Jiangxi Province, South eastern China, from April 1993 to November 1994. Wang and Fuller (2003) conducted a study on the food habits of this species in a rural agricultural area of South eastern China (Taohong Village, Jiangxi Province) by analyzing its scats, the study was conducted between June 1992 and November 1994, and found that this species ate mammals, reptiles, insects, and crustaceans.
Systems: Terrestrial

 Major Threat(s):

The impact of habitat loss and degradation on this species is not fully understood, is can be found in secondary forest and selectively logged areas, however, there is no evidence that it can live in totally converted areas. Hunting and retaliatory killing for raiding poultry on farms may also be threats in areas near human settlement, but the impacts of this killing at population scales are unknown.

On the China Red List it is considered near threatened, nearly meeting vulnerable due to past population declines (A1c). There is no demand for its meat in restaurants in Viet Nam (Roberton, S. pers. comm.). Incidental capture in snares is also a threat. Retaliatory killing for raiding poultry on farms in India might be a threat, but this is not considered a major threat to the population. Hunting is probably the main threat in Lao PDR, but the species persists widely ( and, despite being a ground-dwelling animal, and thus potentially suffering from incidental trapping, there is equivocal evidence for only localized population reduction (Duckworth, W. pers. comm.).

 Conservation Actions:

This species is protected in China (‘Near Threatened’), Thailand, Myanmar and Peninsular Malaysia. It is listed in Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972, and in Appendix III.