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Meerkat Kits at Paignton Zoo!

Meerkat CU
About a month ago, these tiny Meerkat kits were born at Paignton Zoo in the UK. In these pictures they are about 10 days old.

The babies were born to mum Aurora and dad Kang. A Meerkat mother usually has two to five young, usually once a year, after a gestation period of 11 weeks. Kits come into the world with eyes and ears closed and are sparsely furred. Various adults will baby-sit the youngsters while the mother feeds. 

Group meerkats

Mom kits

The kits are now old enough to be seen on exhibit, and will be a part of the Zoo's Meerkat Encounters. Senior keeper Andrew Fry said: “We take visitors in to meet the mob and talk about their habits and their characteristics, then let people help out at feeding time. The pups are keen to get in on the act!”

A web camera has now been set up overlooking the meerkat enclosure. To view this, go to: http://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/meerkatcam.php

Older meerkat
Photo Credit: Ray Wiltshire

Meerkats are a type of mongoose. A group of Meerkats, usually five to thirty members, is called a "mob" or a "gang." They are very territorial and will fiercely defend their home from other Meerkat gangs. They live in colonies with strict social structure that relies on cooperation, love and family. Using their sharp claws, they dig huge burrows with tunnel systems for the colony. Their tails are long and thin with a dark tip. The dark tip is one of the means in which a Meerkat can identify another gang member. They also mark each other to identify each other through smell.

When Meerkats forage for food they tend to do it in a group with one of the group members acting as a sentry watching out for any predators. They put their tails upright to enable them to be easily identified by their fellow gang members. They also communicate by sound using a variety of calls to signal certain situations such as being lost, alarm calls, leading the group calls, pup feeding calls, guarding calls, and foraging calls.

The meerkat is not currently endangered but should by no means be disregarded as they play an important part in maintaining ecological harmony in the desert.