The Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a type of mongoose that lives in Southern Africa, usually in a grass-lined burrow that is sometimes shared with squirrels and other mongooses. Its fur is gray or tan with dark stripes across its back, and its eyes are surrounded by black patches of fur. It is called the “Solar Panel of the Animal World” because its dark-skinned belly can warm it up. Meerkats are very hungry animals and tend to eat every few minutes. They feed on small animals or insects, such as beetles, spiders, birds, crickets and even scorpions — they’re immune to the scorpions’ venom.
They are a closeknit group that divides their responsibilities evenly, including babysitting, foraging and sharing food. And one will always stay awake to protect its fellow meerkats from predators while they nap.v
Although they are small — weighing about two pounds and standing 12 inches tall — meerkats are fierce when it comes to guarding their territory from other animals. When threatened, they will form a “mob” or “gang” and hiss together at the predator. Sometimes they even perform a war-type dance, where all of the meerkats will jump in the air, taunting and, again, hissing loudly. Then, they will slowly move towards the predator and all stop at once to begin pawing at the ground. This creates an image that looks like smoke rising in the air. Once they’ve won, they will use the waste of the losing group to mark their territory with.
Meerkats begin mating when they are about one year old. Typically one particular male and female out of the group are responsible for breeding. The female stays pregnant for about 12 weeks and then a litter of three to five kits is born. Baby meerkats are born blind and weak, but within a month’s time, they are ready to begin learning how to capture food. By six months they are full grown, and they can live up to 10 years or so.
Fun Meerkat Facts
- Predatory birds scare young meerkats so much that even airplanes will make them hide.
- A loud, shrill call is the sign for meerkats to take cover.
- Meerkats will often stand on their hind legs. In fact, mothers will even nurse their young while standing up.
Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center
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