In my opinion you won’t meet a smaller animal with a bigger personality than Meerkats! I love working with them, just generally being around them and watching them! They’re comical, cheeky, social, charismatic and probably the most popular animal in the UK right now all thanks to a car insurance advert!
Now, despite what the advert might depict, these small members of the Mongoose family are NOT from Russia! In the wild, they actually live in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa!
Living in a group known as a mob, gang or clan of up to around 40 individuals, they are led by a dominant pair who produce most of the young. Although, it is the matriarch or the dominant female who is really in charge…just like human relationships really! The female’s even grow to be a little larger than the males! Not all Meerkats in the mob need to be related in order to be a part of the mob though, as they can be made up of several family groups!
Unlike most Mongoose species which have five toes, Meerkats have four! That isn’t the only unique feature these amazing little mammals have though! They’re bodies are perfectly built for living in a desert! Other awesome Meerkats features include:
Having dark patches around their eyes to cut down the hot and bright African sun’s glare!
Having long, horizontal pupils that give them a wide range of vision.
A special membrane that can cover their eyes to protect them whilst they are busy burrowing!
Ears that close to keep out the sand while at work away digging various burrows and for food!
Long, non-retractable claws to help them dig!
Their Burrow Homes
Meerkats sure know how to live! The mop will live in a burrow that is complete with it’s own area to go to the toilet, as well as chambers for them to sleep! However, they can’t necessarily take all the credit for creating them, as Meerkats have been known to live in burrows dug by other animals!
Cute But Deadly…To Each Other!
Meerkats are extremely territorial, and if they come across another mob, they have been known to fight to the death as they are such vicious fighters!
The Babies Are Cute!!
When the pups are first born, their eyes and ears are shut, as well as their bodies most
ly being hairless. Their eyes only actually open after two weeks, to which the pups then start eating food other than milk at three weeks old.
When they hit one month old, they will venture out of their den for the first time and by the time nine weeks rolls around, they will be fully weaned!
They Have A Taste For Danger…Literally!
Meerkats will eat a number of animals and insects in the wild! Their diet even includes some venomous insects which can be a danger to young Meerkats! That doesn’t stop them from shown down though. Meerkats eat:
They Make Great Babysitters!
One of the things Meerkats are most famous for is when they stand guard, it’s potentially the cutest way to look whilst doing a very important job, because they are of course looking out for predators!
However, they also make great babysitters! In a mob, when the mother of the pups needs to go in search of food, other members will take care of the pups! Other adults and pups will play with the pups that mum has left behind so they develop strong social bonds as they grow! As well as this, adults will also help to carry any pups within the mob to another burrow if the gang decides it wants to relocate!
They Do Not Make Good Pets!
The only downside to their popularity, it that people in recent years have started trying to keep Meerkats as pets! THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! Meerkats a not domesticated animals! They are also, as I have already explained, highly social. So to keep a Meerkat on it’s own in your house is just a bit cruel to be honest! They can be very destructive and have been known to suffer from depression when on their own! So please, DO NOT TRY TO KEEP A MEERKAT as a pet!
If you want to see Meerkats, then there are a number of tops zoos and wildlife parks around the UK that house Meerkats, of which some even do Meerkat experiences where you can feed and meet them! So please if you want to see these awesome little mammals, visit your local zoo!
Fancy Meeting Some Meerkats?!
You can Meet The Meerkats at my families wildlife park, Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire!
Check out the parks website for more info on the Meerkat encounter, as well as all of the others we have to offer!