Three new, curious Meerkat pups recently emerged from their burrow, at Zoo Brno, in the Czech Republic.
The trio was born about a month ago, and this was the first time mom allowed them to venture out of the den.
The Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. It is the only member of the genus Suricata. Meerkats are native to all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and South Africa.
A group of Meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang”, or “clan”. A Meerkat clan often contains about 20 individuals, but some super-families have 50 or more members.
The Meerkat is small, weighing on average about 1.1 to 5.5 lbs. (0.5 to 2.5 kg). Its body length reaches about 14 to 20 inches (35 to 50 cm). The Meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing and for signaling to others. Like cats, Meerkats have binocular vision, their eyes being on the front of their faces.
At the end of each of the Meerkat’s ‘fingers’ is a claw used for digging burrows and searching for food. The claws are used in unison with their muscular hind legs to help climb trees. Meerkats have short parallel stripes across their backs, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders. The pattern of stripes is unique to each Meerkat. The underside has no markings, but the belly has a patch that is only sparsely covered with hair and shows black skin underneath. This area is used to absorb heat while standing upright, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Meerkats are primarily insectivores but are known to eat lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, plants, and fungi. They are immune to certain types of venom, including that of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert. Meerkats forage, in a group, with a sentry on guard watching for predators. Baby Meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about one-month old, and they are allowed to do so with another older member of the clan acting as a tutor.
Meerkats become sexually mature at about two years of age and can have one to four pups in a litter. They are iteroparous and can reproduce any time of the year. The pups are allowed to leave their burrow at two to three weeks of age.
The Meerkat is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.