Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)

Meerkat

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You'll find our main exhibit - where the daily talk is - just opposite the tigers and one step before Cafe Graze.

Fast facts

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

What do I eat?

Meerkats mainly eat invertebrates such as beetles, scorpions, spiders and centipede larvae. They will occasionally eat vertebrates including lizards and small snakes.

Where do I live?

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. 

Breeding

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.

Predators

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.

Conservation

Meerkats don’t currently face any major threats, and are found in several large, protected areas.

Did you know?

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.

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Very Happy Day

My 13 year old son and I had a super day out at Marwell today. We are regular visitors, but hadn't been for a while and thought the new tropical centre with the sloth, mouse deer, exotic birds and tiny monkeys was outstanding. We were also very lucky to see nearly… Read full reviewSally, 13th April 2018