These are the critters in your neighborhood, Part 4: The mongoose
In parks and wooded areas in the US, we have squirrels. They are clever and furry but just furtive enough that we can’t really watch them for very long, even though they are kinda cute. There are no squirrels in Fiji, but the closest thing is the mongoose, which is kinda like a squirrel except really, really bad tempered.
Mongoose (mongeese?) are everywhere, but they move so fast it’s hard to get a decent photo. Even after 11 months my efforts to get a picture all look like this:
Mongoose are thought to be related to weasels, meerkats, and ferrets. They often make a high-pitched shrieking, clicking noise that wikipedia claims is “commonly known as giggling”.
Fine, you can call it that, but there’s nothing mirthful about the sound. Mongoose noise reminds me of that last scene in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (the 70s remake): half warning to its pals, and half trying to make you feel vulnerable or afraid. Apparently it makes this noise during mating or courtship, but my observations are that it makes terrible sounds pretty much whenever it feels like it.
The mongoose was an introduced species because some dumb colonial (who was probably a Kipling fan) thought it would keep the snakes and/or rats away from the sugar cane crops. It did, but at the expense of also attacking ground-nesting birds, terrestrial lizards, frogs, iguanas, small mammals, and the eggs of sea turtles. As far as I know, it has no predators, so there are a LOT of them around.
They seem to be solitary creatures, yet they make fighting sounds all the time. Even if they aren’t fighting other mongeese, they seem to be screeching for the hell of it. It’s like the sounds of cats mating, but angrier, and more often. Maybe I’m just projecting that their terrible vocalizations mean they are ill-tempered, but they seem to flair up when there’s two of them wrasslin’ in the bush.
Mongoose are at least shy enough to avoid humans, especially humans that stop to take a photo of them. They run furtively across the sidewalks and grassy areas, but you catch the blur out of the corner of your eye. And then you hear them doing something that sounds like mugging another mongoose.
Unless an entrepreneur can catch some and sell them to Westerners who are over ferrets who are looking for exotic pets, I guess we’re stuck with them.