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Saturday, April 19, 2014
Eastern Time: 3:33 PM || Central Time: 2:33 PM || Mountain Time: 1:33 PM || Pacific Time: 12:33 PM

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Meerkat


Click the blue ball to see Pictures...



Meerkats live in complex groups with clearly defined duties. They rely on teamwork and cooperation to ensure their survival in the hostile environment of the Kalahari Desert. A species of mongoose, the meerkat is about the same size as a rabbit. Despite its small size, however, it can drive off predators much larger than itself by producing an aggressive display.

Habitat: The meerkat is found exclusively on the semiarid plains of southern Africa. It avoids woodland and dense vegetation, preferring to live among the scrub. At night, the meerkat retires to a network of burrows which it digs with its powerful forelegs. The burrows may be as deep as 10 feet. Sometimes the burrows are shared with other animals such as the ground squirrel and yellow mongoose. In rocky ground, the meerkat will make its den in the crevices between the rocks.

Breeding: When meerkats breed, the female will initially refuse the male, until he seizes her by the neck. Mating soon follows. The young are born blind and hairless after a gestation period of 11 weeks. The usual number of the litter is four, and within several days, the young are weaned. The mother then leaves the burrow to hunt; other adult meerkats protect her young.

At 3 weeks, the young meerkats emerge from the burrow for the first time, closely watched by their guardian. The mother introduces her young to unfamiliar food by running around with it in her mouth, encouraging them to snatch it from her. At 2 months, young meerkats resemble the adults. A meerkat baby sitter will guard youngsters diligently for hours on end while the rest of the group is hunting.

Behavior: The meerkat is the most sociable of all the mongooses, living in close knit colonies numbering as many as 2 dozen. Each meerkat has special duties that benefit the group as a whole. As meerkats emerge from the burrows, selected individuals will stand guard to keep watch for predators. They keep watch often in the branches of a tree, and bark out a warning at the first sign of danger. A typical meerkat group stands on guard for predators against the African skyline.

When meerkats face the threat of a rival group of meerkats or a predator, they begin digging up the ground frantically in order to create clouds of dust to distract their aggressor. Also, with their hair bristling, a group of meerkats may advance in a pack toward the enemy in a series of mock attacks designed to scare off the intruder. During such confrontations, the meerkats make themselves as large and fearsome as possible by stretching their legs, arching their bodies, and holding their tails stiffly erect. Once this is done, the entire group continually leaps into the air and growls aggressively. If the intruder persists, the bolder meerkats will bite. When forced on the defensive, the meerkat throws itself on its back with teeth bared and claws out stretched to ward off its attacker.

Food and Hunting: Meerkats feed mainly on insects, spiders, and snails, but they prey also includes rodents, ground nesting birds and their eggs, lizards, and bulbs and roots of select plants. They will even tackle dangerous prey such as scorpions and snakes. Relying on its keen sense of smell, the meerkat is a successful forager. With its prey in sight, the meerkat strikes out with its paws before killing it with a bite. The meerkat tears into it before taking the remains back to the burrow to share with the others.

Key Facts:
Sizes:
Length: 20 in. from head to tip of tail
Weight: 2 lb.

Breeding:
Sexual maturity: 12 months
Mating: Throughout the year
Gestation: 75 days
No. of young: 4-5

Lifestyle:
Habit: Highly sociable. Colonies of up to 30, but averaging 24
Call: A chirrup, trill, growl, or bark, according to circumstances
Diet: Very varied but largely insects, grubs, scorpions, and lizards
Lifespan: About 10 years

Related Species: The gray meerkat, or Selous’s mongoose, is slightly larger with a white tipped tail.

Distribution: Southern Africa, south of the Orange River, including Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and southern Botswana.
Conservation: The meerkat is in no danger of extinction, although erosion of its habitat is believed to have reduced its numbers. Further loss of habitat could change its status in a short time.

Typical Meerkat Group:
Baby sitter will stay close to burrow with youngsters in her care. Sentries will scan the horizon and sky for predators. Hunters will dig for food, some of which will be given to the young. A teacher will show a juvenile how to hunt.

Did You Know:
Meerkats are immune to the poison from a scorpion or a snake.
A meerkat can dig through a quantity of sand equal to its own weight in just seconds.
Meerkats band together in numbers to frighten off predators many times their size.
The meerkat uses its tail for balance and as a signal.


This page was Last Updated on Fri Nov 9, 2012 2:58 pm CST by LadyWildLife

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