Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

Meerkats live in dry, open plains, savannas and grasslands throughout Southern Africa.

Meerkats are social animals, living in multi-family communities of up to 30 individuals. They spend most of their time foraging, basking in the sun and grooming.

Meerkats are natural burrowers. The mob will use several different burrows with multiple entrances and exits as bolt-holes when disturbed by predators. Each burrow has multiple rooms that remain cool even under the African sun.

One meerkat in the group will act as a sentinel, on the lookout for predators like birds of prey and jackals. The sentry will stand on its hind legs or perch in a bush or tree, scanning for danger. Individuals rotate sentinel duty throughout the day whilst others forage and look after young.

Meerkats have at least ten distinctive vocalisations, including murmurs, growls and spits, clucks and alarm barks.

Female meerkats give birth to two to five pups, who stay in the burrow for the first 3 weeks. Fathers and siblings will help look after offspring, teaching them to forage, play and alerting them to danger.

Meerkats are classified by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. There are no major threats to meerkats in the wild at the moment, other than a small trade in meerkats as pets.

Our mob of meerkats at Fife Zoo live in a large mixed exhibit with our crested porcupines.

Meerkat Encounters

HABITAT

Meerkats live in dry, open plains, savannas and grasslands throughout southern Africa.

DIET

Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but will also eat other small animals, plants and fungi.

THREATS

There are few human threats to meerkats. Their main threat is predation from snakes, jackals and birds of prey.

CONSERVATION

LEAST CONCERN

They are relatively widespread within southern Africa, present in several protected areas and have no major threats.

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