Keeper Courtney Mahony said the size of this litter came as a complete surprise.
Taronga Zoo welcomed its largest litter of Meerkats ever, with keepers monitoring the progress of six playful pups.
The pups were born on November 7, but have just begun to venture outside their nest box to explore their habitat. This is the third litter for experienced parents Nairobi and Maputo. Previous litters had only two pups each.
Photo Credits: Paul Fahy (1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9), Courtney Mahoney (4,10,11,12)
“We knew that Nairobi was bigger than she was during her previous pregnancies, but we definitely weren’t expecting six pups! Meerkats usually give birth to 3-4 pups, so mum certainly has her paws full this time,” said Courtney.
Courtney said Nairobi appeared to be relaxed and confident caring for the largest litter of pups in Taronga’s history.
“She’s an incredible mother and seems to be taking it all in her stride. She’s so attentive to the pups and she’s getting lots of babysitting help from dad and her eldest daughter, Serati,” said Courtney.
Keepers will confirm the sex of the pups when they have their first veterinary examination next month, but they suspect there are three males and three females. They have begun to do hands on health checks and weigh the pups regularly to ensure they are healthy and comfortable in their presence.
The yet-to-be-named pups have started to sample solid foods, such as mealworms, wood roaches, fruit and vegetables.
“They are growing a bit slower than our two previous litters, but they’re still hitting all the right milestones and starting to show their own little personalities. The biggest pup is a boy and he’s definitely the most adventurous of the six. He’s the first out of the nest box each morning and the first one to explore new things,” said Courtney.
Native to southern Africa’s arid plains, Meerkats live in extended family groups called mobs. With sharp claws, they dig for insects, spiders, centipedes, and other small animals, which are crushed with sharp teeth. As social animals, Meerkats have a wide range of vocalizations to convey alarm, fear, and contentment. The International Union for Conservation of Nature states that there are no major threats to the species.