Meet the Memorable, Mischievous Meerkat.
- Approximate weight is 1.5 pounds (males are slightly larger)
- Adults are 10-14 inches tall
- Tails, which are 7 to 10 inches long and taper to a reddish or black tip, are used for balance when meerkats stand on their haunches
- Each limb has four toes, one being a long retractable claw
- Coats are usually fawn-colored and peppered with gray, tan, or brown with a silver tint
- Unique to each individual meerkat are short, parallel stripes across the back, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders
- Small, black, crescent-shaped ears close when the animal digs to prevent sand from entering
- Meerkats have binocular vision and a large peripheral range
- The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch with only a sparse covering of hair showing the black skin underneath. This area absorbs heat when the meerkat stands on its rear legs facing hte sun, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights
- A small mammal, the meerkat (or suricata) is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family
- Inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa
- Females can be prolific and wonderful mothers. Molly, the Zoo's former breeding female gave birth to more than 30 babies in eight litters!
- A group of meerkats is called a "mob" or "gang"
- Meerkats emit at least 10 different calls
- A favorite food is the scorpion; meerkats are immune to the poisonous venom
- Meerkats are fully grown by six months of age
- Every adult meerkat has an important role in the mob. Some take on sentry duty, watching for predators and sounding the alarm when danger is present; others baby-sit, gather food or tend to housekeeping chores
Meerkats eat almost anything. They love bugs, watermelon, cat food treats, bones, frozen fruit, and yolk from hard-boiled eggs (a rare treat since eggs are bad for their health)
|Scientific Name:||Suricata Suricatta|
|Geographic Range:||Southwest Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South African savannah|
Molly's Manor Mob
As the sun peaks above the horizon, "Kalala," one of Molly's eldest meerkat offspring, pops out of a den. First, a swiftly sniffing nose . then a head, shoulders, a full grizzled-tan and brown body followed by a long pointed tail. She quickly scans the area before settling in at the main sentry post. Standing at the highest point on the termite mound, she begins what could be a long shift as security guard for her family. While she is just starting her duty, eleven other meerkats pile out of the dens and begin their day by basking in the warmth of the early morning sun. This is the Kalahari Desert . at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Even though it would be so relaxing to spend all day lounging in the sun, there is much work to be done. "Bomani," one of the younger males, wastes no time once he has warmed up and begins to search for food by digging in the dirt. Father "Shaka" joins "Bomani," rubbing his scent on him. This gives meerkats a way to recognize one another besides by sight. While most of the older offspring spend their time digging through the dirt or constructing tunnels, many of the younger meerkats enjoy play-fighting or social-grooming. Play-fighting teaches youngsters how to defend the gang and instills order within the group. Practice techniques include grappling, wrestling and pawing. Sometimes they are quite acrobatic!
Sentry duty is the most important role in the meerkat mob and is shared equally among the adults. Pups (meerkat babies) don't have to worry about helping out until they are a little older and wiser. Three-year-old "Sekitimi" has learned by watching his older siblings on guard duty and scampers up the termite mound to relieve his big sister. Shortly after taking his post, he sees something strange in the sky. Not sure what it may be, he alerts the group that there could be danger above them. They immediately stop their tasks and join him in looking around, all the time communicating with each other. If something looks threatening, they let out a repetitive, short, sharp call or "alarm bark." Lucky for meerkats, the dark bands around their eyes help cut down on the glare of the sun. As the object gets closer, "Sekitimi" decides to sound the alarm. The rest of the mob heads for the tunnels, while remaining watchful of the object. It's only an airplane, but to meerkats it could be one of their greatest enemies, a bird of prey. This could be a dangerous situation in the wild, and they act accordingly. Their instincts take over even though they were born in Colorado and not the Kalahari.
As one of the zoo keepers walks by carrying a bucket, the group runs over to the nearest window, waiting to see what's inside. Being curious animals, meerkats enjoy investigating anything that doesn't seem threatening. When the zoo keeper continues walking around the exhibit, the meerkats excitedly follow to the next window . and the next . and the next, until finally all the contents are dumped out. Live crickets! The meerkats quickly huddle around, all trying to catch and eat as many as they can. Sentry "Scotty" temporarily forgets about his job and leaves his post to join the hunt. Their pointed snouts, long claws and broad, sharp teeth make hunting (and eating) insects an easy sport. Meerkats do not like to share so even if they are not hungry, you will hear bickering among them when food is around.
As the afternoon progresses, many meerkats spend time grooming others or huddling together to keep their bodies warm. It's not unusual to see them "hugging" each other while doing this, as they are a pretty affectionate group.
Dusk is just around the corner and most of the mob has piled next to and on top of each other inside for the night. "Kalala" is back on sentry duty for one last scan of the evening with her sister (and littermate), "Dumela." Once they are satisfied that no danger is present, they join the mob inside for a well-deserved night of sleep.
When not inside sleeping, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's meerkat mob can be seen digging daily in the African Rift Valley. Visit us in person and on our live Meerkat Cam!
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Meerkats
The Zoo currently has 8 meerkats in several mobs.
|Kalala||female||March 10, 2004|
|Dumela||female||March 10, 2004|
|Scotty||male||February 3, 2005|
|Bomani||male||April 21, 2005|
|Akantse||male||July 9, 2005|
|Sekitimi||male||July 9, 2005|