Meerkat

Characteristics

Meerkats are members of the mongoose family, Herpestidae.  Their coats are brown or grey, with reddish spots on their backs.  Their tails are tapered with dark tips and they also have distinctive dark patches around their eyes.  The front claws are enlarged to allow them to dig the burrows and tunnels in which they live.

Behavior

Meerkats are highly social, living in groups of up to 30 members.  Generally the members of a group are all related.  A few members of the group act as sentries while the others are foraging, and these sentries rotate throughout the day.  While the group is foraging, the young are left at home with a babysitter. 

Did You Know?  

  • If a group of meerkats is surprised by a predator and does not have time to run to the safety of the burrow, the adults will cover the young with their own bodies.
  • Some scientists think that meerkats have different calls for different predators.
  • Meerkats are immune to the venom of certain snakes and scorpions, which means they can and do eat these animals.

Our Animals

There are seven meerkats at PPZ.  They are very inquisitive and enjoy exploring the boxes and tubes they are given as part of their enrichment.  We also cut their food up into small pieces and scatter it around the exhibit so they can spend time searching for it.

 

Video

Scientific Name Suricata suricatta
Conservation Status IUCN: Species of Least Concern
Size Meerkats weigh in up to 2 pounds, and range in length from 16 to 24 inches, including their long tails.
Average Lifespan The best estimates suggest that meerkats can live 10-12 years in the wild. They have been known to reach at least 13 years in captivity.
Wild Diet They eat mostly invertebrates like insects and scorpions, but they also eat small reptiles, mammals, and birds.
Found across Southern Africa