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Meerkats are not fussy eaters and will eat both vegetation and meat (meaning that they are omnivores). The main diet of wild meerkats includes fruit, roots, invertebrates (such as insects, scorpions, spiders and millipedes) and small animals (such as mice, birds, lizards and small snakes).
Meerkats are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day, and will go out as a group and spend much of their day foraging for food. Meerkats keep in contact with the rest of their group both visually and through different calls.
These animals are found in southern Africa in habitats that have dry open areas, with short grasses and scrub vegetation.
They are expert diggers, and will create a series of tunnels, burrows and bolt holes. This not only provides them with somewhere to sleep and look after young, but also helps them to hide and escape from predators.
Meerkats are very social animals usually living in groups of 10 to 20 individuals, although larger groups of up to 50 meerkats have been observed. Meerkats are able to breed from 1 to 2 years old and only the dominant male and female will have young.
Meerkat pups are born blind and have little fur, they will remain in the burrow for around three weeks when first born. Meerkats are known as ‘cooperative breeders’, this means that the other adults (including older brothers and sisters) will help to take care of the young. Not only do these helpers aid in keeping the pups safe, they also help teach the pups how to forage for food, how to look out for threats and when to run for safety.
The main predators of meerkats include birds of prey (such as hawks and eagles), snakes and jackals.
To stay safe, meerkats will have a member of its group on lookout (sentry duty) for about an hour at a time. This involves standing on their hind legs, using their tail for balance, and looking out for any potential threats such as predators. If the sentry spots a threat, they will alert the rest of the group by giving out an alarm call.
There are currently no major threats to meerkats in the wild. These animals can be found within several large and well-managed protected areas across its range in the wild.
Status Least Concern
Size Head and body: 25-30cm. Tail length: 19-24cm. Females tend to be larger than males.
Weight Less than 1kg
Gestation 11 weeks
Young 2-5 pups per litter
Life span Over 8 years in the wild, over 12 years in captivity
A group of meerkats is called a mob or gang.
Wild meerkats get all the moisture they need from eating roots and fruits.
Research has found that meerkats are able to recognize and identify who is in their group by voice.