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The African Striped Weasel (Poecilogale albinucha) can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Angola, Burundi, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Zambia. It is the only extant member of the genus Poecilogale. African Striped Weasels have been used in traditional medicine, and in some regions their skins are seen as good luck charms.
African Striped Weasels have long, strong bodies. Their coats resemble that of a skunk's, with dark black coats and wide white or yellowish stripes running down their backs. They are one of the smallest carnivorous mammals in Africa, growing up to about 21 inches (52 cm) in total body length, including the tail. Males are slightly bigger than females, usually weighing around 12 ounces (339 grams) compared to the females' 8.9 ounces (251 grams).
In general, African Striped Weasels are solitary hunters that are active at night. The bulk of their diet consists of rodents that are smaller than they are, like rats and mice, but they will also eat small birds and reptiles. Their sense of smell is extremely important during their hunts, and they make kills by striking at the back of the other animal's neck and whipping them around. They have been known to cache their food to eat later, rather than always eating it immediately.
The breeding season of African Striped Weasels takes place between spring and summer, which is generally when adults spend the most time in each other's company. They will sometimes pair up to dig burrows, but males are extremely aggressive toward other males. If an encounter between two males doesn't end with threat displays and a retreat, it will escalate into a full-on fight. Females will give birth to a litter of two or three babies after a gestation period of about 30 days. The young are born and raised in a burrow, then fully weaned at eleven weeks. They are able to start taking their own prey at thirteen weeks.
There are currently five recognized subspecies of African Striped Weasel:
- Poecilogale albinucha albinucha
- Poecilogale albinucha bechuanae
- Poecilogale albinucha doggetti
- Poecilogale albinucha lebombo
- Poecilogale albinucha transvaalensis
African Striped Weasels are currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN.