Featured Animal: Meerkat

Meet our featured animal: the meerkat!

Meerkats

Here are five fun facts about meerkats:

  • Meerkats live in groups of 20-50 extended family members in large underground tunnels. These family groups are called gangs or mobs.
  • One of the most important roles a meerkat plays is that of the sentry, or watch guard. The sentry will stand on its hind legs, propped up by its tail, and act as a lookout while the rest of the mob is outside the burrow.
  • Meerkats are specially adapted to living in the harsh desert environment. Dark patches around their eyes help them be effective lookouts by reducing the glare of the sun, much like a baseball player who paints dark lines beneath his eyes.
  • Meerkats also possess special adaptations to help them burrow. Their eyes have a clear protective membrane that shields them from dirt while digging. Their ears also close tightly to keep dirt out.
  • A meerkat’s diet consists of mainly insects, supplemented by small rodents, fruit, birds, eggs, lizards, and even poisonous scorpions.

Learn more at our meerkat facts page!

Meerkat Pups at Memphis Zoo

Memphis Zoo welcomed two male meerkat pups on February 27. Photo by Laura Horn, courtesy of Memphis Zoo.

Say hello to Billy and Rico, the two meerkat babies born on February 27. Photo by Laura Horn, courtesy of Memphis Zoo.

Two meerkat pups were born on February 27 to first-time mother Sunny at the Memphis Zoo. The babies, named Billy and Rico, are both male.

“It’s really adorable to see how the whole group takes care of the young meerkats,” said Melanie Lewis, Cat Country keeper. “The visitors love them as well. They’re front and center in the exhibit. They’re not shy at all.”

Learn more about Billy and Rico at the Memphis Zoo website.

To find out more about meerkats, visit our meerkat facts page.

Baby Meerkats at Oakland Zoo

Meerkat pups at Oakland Zoo

Photo by Oakland Zoo.

Three meerkat pups were born at the Oakland Zoo. Their names are African in origin and are Ayo (joy), Rufaro (happiness), and Nandi (sweet). The pups are approaching six weeks of age and are doing well.

According to Victor Alm, Zoological Manager:

“It has been wonderful watching the mob [group of meerkats] raise the pups. It has truly been a collective effort and all the adults are taking their turns caring for and teaching the new pups their different roles and jobs needed to be a productive meerkat.”

In the wild, meerkats inhabit the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. They are physically adapted to living in the harsh desert environment. Dark patches around their eyes help them be effective lookouts by reducing the glare of the sun, much like a baseball player who paints dark lines beneath his eyes.

To learn more about meerkats, see our our Meerkat Facts page.

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