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Mongoose species in southern Benin: Preliminary ecological survey and local community perceptions
Information on the ecology and local perception of particular species is required for their conservation and management in tropical forests, where their range has either disappeared or their numbers are shrinking due to anthropogenic factors. We combined indigenous knowledge and wildlife observations to record four species of mongooses in the Lama and Niaouli forests. Three diurnal species, such as the cusimanse (Crossarchus obscurus), the ichneumon mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon), and the marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus), were directly observed, and one nocturnal species (the white-tailed mongoose: Ichneumia albicauda) was identified by interviews. Factorial correspondence analysis shows that the marsh and the white-tailed mongooses are more frequent in the lowland habitat, whereas the ichneumon mongoose is often sighted near villages and the cusimanse is more generalist. Mongooses are used for food, medicine, and mythic purposes. They are recognized as snake predators and thus their presence is appreciated by local communities to reduce snake bites (84.3% of interviews in Niaouli). Some species, such as cusimanse, are seen as natural pesticides. Our results suggest that the larger area of the Lama classified forest (4777 ha) allows for more intra-site movements as opposed to the inter-site movements observed in the Niaouli forest due to its small size (120 ha). We suggest further investigations of the ecology and ethology of the conservation of mongoose in Benin.
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