Zoo Heidelberg's Meerkat family has grown again, for the second time this year. In early October, three pups were born. Born naked, blind and helpless, the pups have developed much over the past few weeks and now can be seen running around outside the den with the zoo's other 15 Meekats. The three young pups are very wild and playful, developing the skills that they would need in the wild to be successful foragers and hunters.
Meerkats, endemic to the desert of southern Africa, are members of the mongoose family. They live in social colonies in underground burrows and tunnels that help to protect them against the harsh sun. These groups always follow a structured system of rank: only the dominant male and female reproduce, while the others help out as babysitters. Some members of the colony act as scouts that cry out to warn each other if a predator, like a hawk, is spotted. Even though there aren't any serious predators at Heidelberg Zoo, the zoo's Meerkats still show this behavior.
Photo credits: Peter Bastian (1-4); Heidrun Knigge (5)
Although small, Meerkats are skilled hunters and can kill prey up to the size of a lizard or bird. At the zoo, the Meerkats are presented with a healthy variety of fruits as well as animal foods. Their favorite treat is a sprinkling of mealworms: they love to scratch and dig around until every last one has been found.