The two-month-old Meerkat pups at Taronga Zoo were recently given names to reflect their African heritage. Meet ‘Lwazi’ and his sister ‘Serati’! The playful siblings were born January 7 to first-time mom, Nairobi, and dad, Maputo.
The Zoo has been celebrating this birth of its first Meerkat pups in nearly seven years. Check out our earlier article that introduced the pair: "Meerkat Pups Go Exploring at Taronga Zoo"
“They may be young, but they’re already showing signs of their own little personalities. Our male is the bigger of the two and he’s more adventurous and inquisitive, while the female is quieter and prefers to stay close to mum,” said Keeper, Courtney Mahony.
“This is all new for them and they learn by observing their mum and dad, so we’re very lucky that Nairobi and Maputo are proving to be fantastic and attentive first-time parents. Nairobi is letting the pups suckle and grooming them at the right times and Maputo protects them, huddles over them and curls up with them at night.”
Gestation for Meerkats is about eleven weeks. In the wild, Meerkats give birth in underground burrows to help keep the newborns safe from predators. To shield the pups from dust in their subterranean homes, they are born with their eyes and ears closed. Meerkat babies are also nearly hairless at birth, though a light coat of silver and brown fur begins to fill in after just a few days.
These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families.
The babies nurse for about nine weeks, and they grow very quickly. Though they weigh only about an ounce at birth, by six months old, the pups are about the same size as the adults.
The Meerkat, or Suricate (Suricata suricatta), is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. They are native to all parts of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa.
They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the wild, they are present in several large and well-managed protected areas. However, population densities can fluctuate due to predation and rainfall variations.