Africa's Kalahari Desert from Angola, Namibia and Botswana into South Africa.
Dry, open plains, savannas, deserts and grasslands
Coats are silvery-brown in color with a dark tail and whitish head. They have dark masking around their eyes which act as sunglasses, protecting them and allowing them to see better in bright sunlight. Their sense of sight is very keen, and their ear openings can be closed to exclude dirt and dust. When standing on their hind legs, their tail acts as a brace, creating a tripod for better balance.
The meerkat is a very active and social animal. It spends most of its time searching for food, sun-bathing, cleaning itself and sleeping. They live in groups of 10-20 individuals called "mobs." The mobs reside in deep burrows considered "communities." Meerkats rarely venture far from their burrow so food resources rapidly diminish. This means colonies must migrate often to find new food sources. Within the community each meerkat has a job. The baby sitters stay close to the burrow and protect the young. Hunters dig and find food to bring back to the young until the young are old enough to forage with the family. The sentries keep watch for potential predators from a higher perching area.
Gestation lasts 11 weeks for these small mammals. 2-4 offspring are born blind and hairless. Other adult meerkats protect the young while the mother leaves to hunt. At 3 weeks the young meerkats emerge from the burrow and at 2 months resemble adults.
|Length:||Body: 10-14 inches; tail: 7-10 inches|
|Average Lifespan:||7 years in the wild|
|Wild Diet:||Insects, spiders, snails, rodents, lizards, and bulbs and roots of select plants|
|Predators:||Birds of prey, jackals and other carnivorous animals|
|USFWS Status:||Not Listed|
|CITES Status:||Not Listed|
|Where at the Zoo?||Small Animal Building: Desert Zone|