Tonga’s Department of Quarantine has sent animal remains believed to be one of the two mongooses still missing in Tonga to New Zealand for analysis and confirmation.
Six mongooses made their way into the kingdom through a container of paints that was shipped from Fiji, Graham Malaʻefoʻou from Quarantine said.
Three of the mammals were found dead and the other three escaped when the container was opened on June 8.
One of the escapees was eventually cornered and recaptured while the other two were still missing.
Malaʻefoʻou said a report from Kolofoʻou led quarantine staff to a spot in the area where they collected an animal’s “lower jaw” and fur. The staff also took photos, he said.
They sent the remains to experts in New Zealand for scientific analysis and to confirm whether or not they belonged to one of the missing mongooses, he said.
Mongooses are not native to Tonga. The mammals were first introduced into the kingdom’s neighbouring country Fiji in 1883 to control rats in sugar cane fields.
According to the National Geographic website mongooses are primarily found in Africa.
They are generally terrestrial mammals, but some are semi-aquatic, and others are at home in the treetops.
Ranging in size from the 7-inch-long (18-centimeter-long) dwarf mongoose to the 2-foot-long (60-centimeter-long) Egyptian mongoose; these sleek mammals have long bodies with short legs and tapered snouts.
They normally have brown or gray grizzled fur, and a number of species sport striped coats or ringed tails.
Mongooses live in burrows and are non discriminatory predators, feeding on small animals such as rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, and worms. Some species supplement their diet with fruits, nuts, and seeds. Creative hunters, they are known to break open bird eggs by throwing them with their forepaws toward a solid object.