The African weasel (Poecilogale albinucha), the only member of its genus, is a small, black-and-white-coloured weasel endemic to sub-Saharan Africa.
African striped weasels are regarded as one of the smallest mammalian carnivores in Africa and have short legs and an elongated body.
Adults have a head to body length of 11 – 13 in (27 – 32 cm), with the tail adding a further 6.3 – 7.9 in (16 – 20 cm). Male African striped weasels are larger than females, weighing an average of 12.0 oz (339 g), compared with 8.9 oz (251 g).
The fur is black, with pale yellowish to white bands that run down the back. It has a white tail and a white patch on top of its death.
African striped weasels have an elongated head, with a short, broad snout, small eyes, and short ears. The canine teeth are long, while the carnassial teeth are long. The claws are curved & sharp, and the tail is bushy & long.
Female African striped weasels have 4 teats. Similar to other mustelids, African striped weasels have scent glands that spray noxious fluid when they feel threatened.
Breeding occurs between spring – summer, and includes at least 3 bouts of copulation, each lasting 60 – 80 minutes. The gestation period may last up to 30 days, after which the female gives birth to a single litter of 2 – 3 young.
The newborns are born in a burrow and are initially hairless and blind, weighing just 4 g (0.14 oz) each. Their canine begins to erupt at 5 weeks, and their eyes open after 7 weeks.
The young are weaned at 11 weeks, and they start hunting and killing their own prey at 13 weeks. They are sexually mature at 8 months and reach the full adult size at 20 weeks.
African striped weasels are nocturnal animals. They prey on small rodents, reptiles, eggs, and birds, but feed mostly on smaller rodents or rodents of their own size.
They hunt their prey mainly by scent, then attacking with a sudden lunge and a strike at the back of the neck.
After killing, they make use of their lithe, thin, muscular build to stun and tear their prey. Sometimes, instead of eating their prey immediately, they store it in their burrow.
Weasels, in general, are solitary animals, although sometimes some individuals may pair up to dig burrows. They are excellent diggers but may be seen in natural cavities such as rock crevices or hollow logs.
They have well-defined latrine locations where they deposit their dung. A male becomes aggressive when they encounter another.
They start by making short cries and fake charges, fluffing their tails, and then escalating to fighting with shaking, biting, and aggressive shrieks if both males refuse to retreat.
African striped weasels have 6 different types of calls. The 6 calls include the warning and aggressive calls (which was mentioned above), a call that transits between the warning and aggressive calls, submission of a retreating male call, surrender during a fight call, and a greeting call between young and their mother and between males and females.
Habitat and distribution
African striped weasels can be found in much of Africa south of the equator. They occur from Kenya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.
They inhabit savannah habitats but may also be found in grasslands and forests. They commonly live below 4,900 ft (1,500 m) elevation but may often be seen as high as 7,200 ft (2,200 m).