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Aberrant Smith’s Dik-Dik and black-tailed White-tailed Mongoose on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch

By Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski, Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme

The Zoological Society of London/Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme’s Camera Trapping Project has been running since 2013. In September 2016, a camera trap on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch captured a pair of adult Smith’s Dik-diks Madoqua (guentheri) smithii near the centre of the Ranch. This pair comprised a ‘typical-coloured’ adult female and a ‘frosted’ (grizzled grey) adult male (see Issue 6 of this newsletter and http://www.lolldaiga.com/gunthers-dik-dik/). Between September and December 2017, camera traps captured yet another aberrant male Smith’s Dik-dik, this time near the southeast corner of the Ranch. As the images below show, this adult male has a pure white stripe running down the face, from between the ears to the lips, and two white ‘stocking’ on the hindfeet.  

Aberrant adult male Smith’s Dik-dik Madoqua (guentheri) smithii on southeast Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Images by ZSL/LHRP camera traps.

Aberrant adult male Smith’s Dik-dik Madoqua (guentheri) smithii on southeast Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Images by ZSL/LHRP camera traps.

Aberrant adult male Smith’s Dik-dik Madoqua (guentheri) smithii on southeast Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Images by ZSL/LHRP camera traps.

Aberrant adult male Smith’s Dik-dik Madoqua (guentheri) smithii on southeast Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Images by ZSL/LHRP camera traps.

This aberrant Smith’s Dik-dik was not the only rarity captured on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch during the second half of 2017. In October, a White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda with a black tail was also camera-trapped.

The White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda, largest of all mongooses, is a frequent visitor to Lolldaiga’s camera traps. This 4-5 kg, long-legged, nocturnal carnivore is named after its distinctive whitish tail.   

On 12 October, an adult White-tailed Mongoose with blackish body and black tail was camera-trapped on south Lolldaiga Hill Ranch. Black-tailed individuals have been reported throughout much of the species’ wide geographic range. They are more common than the white-tailed variant in West Africa, but rare in Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya, we are aware of only four other records of the black-tailed variant; one record each for Mpala Ranch and Il Motiok Group Ranch, central Laikipia (Adam Ferguson & Dedan Ngatia pers. comm.), and a record of two individuals on Manda Island, north coast, that were black over the distal ca. 30% of the tail (Anne Powys pers. comm.). It appears that <1% of the White-tailed Mongoose in Kenya and Tanzania have black, or partially black, tails. In these individuals, the extent and degree of ‘blackness’ on the body varies considerable, with some, such as the animal captured on Lolldaiga, perhaps best referred to as ‘melanistic’.

White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda with an all-blackish body captured by a ZSL/LHRP camera trap on south Lolldaiga Hill Ranch.

White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda with an all-blackish body captured by a ZSL/LHRP camera trap on south Lolldaiga Hill Ranch.

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