This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Road Kill and Why You Shouldn't Look The Other Way!

Perhaps you remember back in September I posted I was really excited to see my first wild animal of Africa.
The problem for me and especially this little guy was it was dead,  apparently from a night time tangle with a vehicle.  It was misidentified as "some sort of bush baby."

Friends, let me introduce you to the now famous SELOUS' MONGOOSE!

I received the following note from Clare Mateke.  At first I thought, "oh, oh, I am going to jail".  But no, Clare was very nice and made me feel very important and special to have crossed paths with Selous' Mongoose.  Here are Clare's words on the subject. 

Dear David Skidmore,

I came across your blog, "If not now? When?" quite by accident and was fascinated to see a photo in your Sept 2 post of a dead wild animal you saw in Chaminuka Nature Reserve.

I am a mammalogist at the Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, southern Zambia. I have recently done some research on small carnivores.  Your dead animal is definitely NOT a bush baby (which is a primate - member of the monkey family)  I am pretty sure it is actually a Selous' Mongoose, a small carnivore which is very rarely seen even in the larger national parks.  I have never seen one and during an email survey across most of Zambia that I did in 2007 none of my correspondents had seen one in the last 10 years or had any record of anyone having seen one in this period.  During my study in Lower Zambezi National Park in 2009 we recorded one or two possible sightings of Selous' Mongooses by park guides in the past 10-20 years but these could not be confirmed as they were not very sure of the identity.

Photos of rare mongooses like this one are just as rare, as you will notice if you do an internet search, and in fact, most of the ones one the internet are Yellow Mongooses that have been wrongly identified.  The black feet of the Selous' Mongoose are characteristic, as is the grizzly grey fur and white-tipped tail (which I think has been broken off in the accident in your photo).

So, you see, your photo, even though of a dead animal, is quite a treasure (at least to biologists like me).  I would like to ask your permission to use this photo to send to the management of Chaminuka and ask if they have ever seen live Selous' Mongooses on the reserve (they may not if they do not do night drives, as it is a nocturnal animal), and also to send to some colleagues of mine to help confirm its identity and for records purposes.  I would also be interested to know the exact date that you saw it (I am guessing it was at the end of August).

Out of interest, you mention that you showed the photo to your driver and he thought it was a bush baby.  Was this a driver for Chaminuka - the guide on your game tour, perhaps?  If it was on the main road to the lodge hopefully one of the staff would have eventually found it and tried to identify it - if they got there before the vultures!

A very interesting blog by the way!

Clare Mateke
Keeper of Mammalogy
Livingstone Museum

PS. I notice from reading more of your blog that you are, among other things, an artist (painter).  So am I!  You can look me up at if you are interested.


  Did you get that, a treasure.  
I have looked all my life for hidden treasures and here I had one and didn't even know it.  
Do you think that has happened to me or anyone else before?  
I must look carefully at all the smelly dead things in my life and re-evaluate.  
I am certain there are more treasures out there, we just need someone else to point them out for us sometimes.