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Meerkats mainly eat invertebrates such as beetles, scorpions, spiders and centipede larvae. They will occasionally eat vertebrates including lizards and small snakes.
Meerkats are found in western parts of southern Africa, including western and southern Namibia, south-western Botswana, and north and west South Africa. They live in open, arid areas with short grasses and scrub.
Generally only the dominant male and female of a group breed. Between three and seven pups are born in a litter. The pups are born with their eyes and ears closed, and remain in their underground den until they are three to four weeks old. Other members of the group help care for the young. These helpers babysit, groom, feed and protect the pups and also teach them foraging skills when they are old enough.
The main predators of meerkats include snakes, jackals and birds of prey such as eagles. Meerkats take turns to be on sentry duty, watching out for predators. The sentries give different alarm calls depending on whether the predator is a mammal, a bird of prey or a snake. If the predator is a mammal, the meerkats run to their nearest burrow; if the predator is a bird, the meerkats crouch, freeze and look up at the sky; if the predator is a snake, the group will get ready to mob the snake, bunching together and rocking back and forth to try to scare off the snake.
Meerkats don’t currently face any major threats, and are found in several large, protected areas.
Status Least Concern
Size Head-body: males: 24.5-29 cm; females: 26-28.5 cm
Weight 620-797 g
Gestation 70 days
Young 3-7 pups per litter
Life span Over 12 years
Meerkats live in groups, generally of 4-9 individuals, but groups of up to 49 have been recorded.
Meerkat groups will have about five dens in their territory and generally move to a different den every few days.
Meerkats are good diggers and can dig dens themselves, but usually use dens dug by other small mammals.
Meerkats sometimes share dens with South African ground squirrels or yellow mongooses.