The Mongoose

by Toukta Wongse-Ont

Some time ago I saw, from a distance, two mongooses (ferretlike animals) crossing the road. They were slowly walking across the road, side by side. A car (two cars in front of me) sped up and hit one. The other mongoose ran back across and sniffed the dead mongoose. I felt a wave of sadness for the dead mongoose and its now lonely friend. Then the (second) car in front of me sped up, screeching its wheels, and tried to hit the second mongoose. By then I was shocked, but relieved and happy that the second mongoose got away. Whew!

The other day, as I was driving down another quiet, rural road, I saw a mongoose crossing the road again. The truck in front of me revved its engine and plowed down that poor mongoose! I sadly watched as the mongoose’s body convulsed, then its legs quivered, as its life force was ebbing away.

I tried to talk about mongooses with the Hawaiiana teacher at the school where I work. “Mongooses are ugly. They’re just nasty,” he said. Then I talked to a friend who said that he likes to shoot them with BB guns. Finally, I talked to my mom who laughed and told me about a mongoose she saw, running away — upright — with chicken eggs in its arms. Is that possible? Their legs are short, but I guess they are related to meerkats, who do stand upright.

Whenever I see a mongoose, it runs by so fast, like a flash. They seem smart. Why didn’t they see the cars? In my biology book, I was reading that herbivores have eyes at the sides, while predators, like the mongoose have both eyes facing forward. It’s a “binocular vision” that gives it depth perception, and allows it to focus on a target.

Too bad that the people that introduced the mongoose to Hawaii had “binocular vision,” and were so focused on getting rid of the rats, that they couldn’t see the harm this invasive species would bring to native birds, amphibians, reptiles, and more. Too bad that their “depth perception” couldn’t see that rats are nocturnal while mongooses are active in the day.