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Perth Meerkat Pups: "Meer"ly Practicing for Primetime

The Perth Zoo has three new arrivals and they recently went on display. Meerkats have a unique form of communication, at the center of which is the sentinel guard.  At least one individual stands guard while the group is away from the den.  In the event of an approaching threat, the guard lets out a high pitched squeal, alerting his or her pals to the danger.


Here, two of the babies practice their best sentinel stances in preparation for guard duty.


Huddled together, the pups (whom I have decided to name Wynken', Blynken', and Nod; from Left to Right) make a formidable team. This meerkat moment was brought to you by photographer 'Galah.

The meerkat manor at Perth Zoo is a buzz with activity thanks to the arrival of three new additions – the first meerkats born at Perth Zoo in nearly eight years.

The kits (born 27 November) have already started venturing out of their nest box to explore their home in the Zoo’s African Savannah zone. Their sex won’t be known until their first health check and vaccination when they are six weeks old.

Their eyes opened 10 days after they were born and they bear the trade-mark black rings around their eyes. The meerkats’ excellent vision is in part due to these dark rings of fur as they reduce the glare from the sun

The three youngsters have begun the weaning process and have had their first solids – a snack of meal worms. Kits stop suckling after about three to four weeks.

Mum and dad are very protective and have been taking turns at sentry duty looking out for any threats or predators.

In the wild, the meerkat on sentry duty is very important as he or she keeps a look out for predators while other group members forage for food. The sentries stand on their hind legs to get a good view of aerial predators like hawks or ground predators such as cobras. Once a threat is spotted, the sentries let out an alarm call and the group dives into its burrow. The alarm call is just one of at least 10 vocalisations made by meerkats.

Meerkats are members of the Mongoose family and are extremely social animals. They are very territorial and will fiercely defend their home from other meerkat groups.

Meerkats live in complex burrows which have a number of entrances and tunnels. Their elaborate living arrangements provide alternative exits or escape routes if an intruder invades their home. They are particularly sensitive to the cold and sleep huddled together for warmth.

Hunting during the day, meerkats are agile hunters, feeding on insects, spiders, other small animals, roots and bulbs. They do not have any fat stores, so they must forage for food every day. Meerkats are particularly adept at catching scorpions. They quickly bite off the tail so they don’t get stung and then eat the arachnid.

Perth Zoo has two groups of meerkats in the African Savannah where their typical natural behaviours can be observed.

The school holidays are a great time to visit the kits as January is African Adventures month at Perth Zoo with free African-themed art and craft activities for the kids, roving entertainment and special animal enrichment activities.