Wildbuzz: Mums who love sons & and four more - Hindustan Times
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Wildbuzz: Mums who love sons & and four more

ByVikram Jit Singh
Mar 24, 2024 07:36 AM IST

One of the earliest descriptions — of the few that are available of mongoose mating in natural history literature —came in 1928 from a British Indian Army officer

The Indian grey mongoose and small Indian mongoose are fairly common species of the tricity. Their mating behaviour is fascinating, inclusive of a substantive “sons and lovers” syndrome rooted in nature’s amoral ways. Mongooses are generally polygamous and both sexes entertain rights to the proverbial “four or more” spouses. Equality ends here, though, with the female tasked with the complete upbringing, the male done and dusted after sowing his wild oats. Mongooses tend to mate not in specific seasons but are known to have more than one litter in a year. However, the mongooses’ breeding biology remains an under-researched subject. The mating behaviour of these small carnivore species has hardly been projected for public awareness in popular science, unlike the wilderness films made on tigers and lions indulging in the act of reproduction.

Small Indian mongooses mating at the Cactus Garden, Panchkula. (Photo: Anuj Jain)
Small Indian mongooses mating at the Cactus Garden, Panchkula. (Photo: Anuj Jain)

One of the earliest descriptions — of the few that are available of mongoose mating in natural history literature —came in 1928 from a British Indian Army officer, Lt Col AG Frere. His bungalow in Kannur, Kerala, was occupied by a fertile Indian Grey mongoose. Apart from her romps with non-progeny males, she mated with the son from her first litter, wrote Frere, with the “act repeated half-a-dozen or more times, in my view, at intervals of a few minutes on each occasion.” Three-and-a-half weeks later, the mother copulated with the son from her second generation of progeny. The Briton noted that there was no attempt at evasion on the part of the mother when approached by her sons for copulation. The litter came 61 days from the copulation with her elder son and 38 days after that with the younger one. The Britisher was left rather foxed! This female, when moving with very young cubs, was also a fiery mum attacking a cat four to six times bigger and causing the latter to flee at Milkha Singh speed. Much to Lt Col Frere’s amusement!

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In November 2020, birders Ritesh Joshi and Kanchan Puri observed mating in the Siri Fort park, Delhi: “The (Small Indian) mongooses were running one behind the other, sometimes lying on the ground, exhibiting mock charging and playful behaviour. After a while, the male mounted the female and copulated for about 15-20 seconds. Immediately, after the attempt, the male started hovering near the spot at a distance of about one metre, and felt like expressing his excitement and victory. After quite a few seconds, the male again approached the female and copulated again. This continued randomly seven to eight times. During copulation, the female supported the male to mount by lying on the ground and placing her tail on either side of the body. The mating continued for about 35 minutes.”

From the side of the Buriganga river in Bangladesh, small Indian mongoose mating was observed in January 2014. “The pair copulated nine times, with bouts lasting 21, 23, 17, 14, 26, 58, 20, 24 and 107 seconds. While copulating, the male tried to pull the female’s abdomen upwards with its forelimbs...No aggressive behaviour, such as biting, was observed during mating,” wrote researchers, Hassan Al-Razi, Shayer Mahmood Ibney Alam, Mohammad Abdul Baki and Nadim Parves.

College students leave behind litter at Mirzapur dam. (Photo: Vikram Jit Singh)
College students leave behind litter at Mirzapur dam. (Photo: Vikram Jit Singh)

Other side of youth dividend

Much has been extolled of India’s youth dividend. Flourishing private universities is a related talking point. Higher education is imparted to youths at substantive fees borne by the parents. Yet, a section of students display a lack of civic sense when using public spaces set in fragile ecological environments such as fresh water bodies. That brings into question what kind of objective “higher education” has served, or, for that matter, the home upbringing of such children.

At Mirzapur check dam in the Shivalik foothills, students from a nearby private university regularly spend recreational time. They come with foodstuffs in plastic and polythene bags. After enjoying the dam and clicking more selfies than photographs of birds and the scenic waters, the students leave behind the litter of their foodstuff without a thought for environmental implications and for other tourists visiting the dam. It would not take much of an effort to collect the remains and take them back, much in the same way foodstuff was brought to the dam. The litter could be discarded at the university dustbin.

Thoughtless students daily violate other Shivalik dams. At the Sukhna lake, there are dustbins ready at hand. But the enjoyment of educated youths is not restrained by any such civic obligation. Stray dogs feast on uneaten cake and cream smears left on the lake’s promenade by the happy birthday parties from prominent colleges.

vjswild2@gmail.com

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