Meerkats are such fascinating and a joy-to-watch animals. Here is a list of some interesting facts about the desert “comedians”.
Meerkats (Suricata suricatta), also known as suricates, are small, diurnal, burrowing mammals widespread on the plains of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. On average, they weigh about 731 grams (males) and 720 grams (females). Meerkat is about 25 to 35 cm long with a 17 to 25 cm tail.
Meerkats are furry animals with sharp claws use in digging burrows and catching prey. They have long tails which are used for balancing. The eyes have black patches, brown nose, and small closable ears. Typically, meerkats live in a group called “clan”. “gang” or “mob”. A clan may consist of about 20 individuals, but there are “big families” that have more than 50 members. In the wild, markets can live up to 14 years.
Meerkats live in underground burrows that may contain about 70 different entrances. Aside from the entrance holes, meerkats home has several tunnels and sleeping chambers. Since, these animals are territorial, a territory can be between one to three square miles. Meerkats protect their occupied space against other gangs. Each territory can have from 6 to 15 dens depending on the clan’s size.
Meerkats hunt for food in a group with one member serving as guard watching for predators, while the rest of the group search for food. Each “guarding duty” may last for about an hour. They have eyes on the front of their faces which give them an excellent binocular vision. Also, they have depth perception, and wide peripheral range. The “guard” makes a beeping sound, when the surrounding is safe from predators, but whistles if he sees danger approaching. Its diet includes insects, insect larvae, plants and in some occasions other small animals (like lizards and mice).
Meerkats are social animals; they love playing, wrestling and grooming one another. A typical clan includes:
* Alpha male – the largest in the group who owns the breeding rights to the alpha female.
* Alpha female – Dominant female of the clan. The one suppose to breed in the gang.
* Beta male – about 10 months or older who must obey the Alpha male. After 3 years, they may leave the group to form another clan.
* Beta female – serves the alpha female but will be temporarily evicted when the alpha female gets pregnant. Also, they will leave the clan after 3 years in search of better breeding opportunities.
* Pups – babies about 10 months or younger.
* Babysitter – has the obligation to watch over the pups while the gang is out hunting for meals. This duty is for members in the clan about 6 months or older.
* Sentry – Stand on the ground, or climbing a tree to watch over the clan.
* Excavators - members left behind task to clean and renovate burrow systems. mentoring -
* Tutors – an elder member task to teach and train baby meerkats.