About the Banded Mongoose Project

Banded Mongoose Research Project

 

The Banded Mongoose Research Project consists of a team of researchers working in Uganda, Exeter and Liverpool in the UK. The main project is based at the University of Exeter (Penryn Campus) and is directed by Professor Michael Cant.

 

The field project in Uganda is managed by Francis Mwanguhya with the help of Solomon Kyabulima, Kenneth Mwesige, Robert Businge and Solomon Ahabyona.

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How we are funded

 

We are funded by grants from the European Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council of the UK, and The Royal Society.

 

It takes a lot of work to keep a project going for 20 years, but the rewards are that we can follow animals across their entire lives and over multiple generations, and find answers to big important questions.

 

Why do some mongooses get old much more quickly than others? What are the consequences of getting a good start in life? How much does an individual’s health and behaviour depend on its parents and grandparents? These are questions that laboratory studies of animals just can’t answer in the way that wild studies can.

History

 

The first detailed observations of banded mongoose behaviour and ecology were made at Mweya by Ernest Neal of Uganda Institute of Ecology in the late 1960s, followed by Jon Rood of the Smithsonian Institute in the early 1970s. This work was brought to a halt by turbulent political conditions that prevailed in Uganda throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. In the early 1990s Daniela De Luca and Rosie Woodroffe from the Institute of Zoology in London returned to Mweya to follow up on Rood’s study.

 

Building on this research, the Banded Mongoose Research Project was initiated in 1995 by Michael Cant and Tim Clutton-Brock from University of Cambridge. The animals have been studied continuously since then by a team of researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Cambridge and Zurich.

 

Much of the success of the project is down to the work of five Ugandan field assistants who are based permanently at the site: Francis Mwanguhya, Solomon Kyabulima, Kenneth Mwesige, Robert Businge and Solomon Ahabyona. The team have between them over 30 years experience working on the mongooses and can recognise most animals by sight.

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Research

 

The Banded Mongoose Research Project uses the Mweya mongoose population as a model system to investigate the evolution of animal societies. Banded mongooses have an unusual social system in which group members help to rear offspring that are not their own.

 

These ‘cooperatively breeding’ societies pose a challenge to evolutionary theory because natural selection is expected to favour selfish behaviour that maximises an individual’s reproductive success. The banded mongoose population at Mweya provides an opportunity to answer questions about the evolution of cooperation and the resolution of conflict in wild mammals.