The Adorable Meerkat At The San Diego Zoo

Meerkat

The Meerkat At The San Diego Zoo

This adorable meerkat is a bundle of joy. You will find him at the San Diego Zoo. He is cleaver and fun! He is a member of the Mongoose family and comes from South Africa. This meerkat, like all meerkats, lives underground in burrows. Around 40 of these cute little animals form a group, called a mob or sometimes a gang. If one of these little guys is adorable and cute, what about 40? A mob of meerkats must be a riot! What fun to watch!

The meerkat mob is fascinating. Yes, there are security in numbers, but there is more. They keep companionship with each other.  They play and frolic with each other throughout the burrow. They also spend a lot of time grooming each other. This keeps the mob a tight family unit and safe from outsiders. They may be mostly family, but it is not necessary to be family to be in the mob. There is usually one pair that is the head of the mob. They also have the most offspring. What a deal is that!

Over the years the meerkat has adapted to the dusty and arid Kalahari Desert in South Africa.   Take a look at those dark patches around the eyes. Are they mob makeup? No, not really, they help to control the glare of the sun. I am sure that comes in handy at the San Diego Zoo also. Then check out those long pupils! Now that surely gives them strong side vision. All those special accessories and a special cover for the eye when burrowing. They have like a thin film that protects their eyes from the dirt and other things in the earth. Even their fur is thin and their skin is dark. This helps to protect them from getting a sunburn. These little fellows are really well equipped!

Another special piece of equipment are their scent pouches that are under their tails. Much like a dog marks his territory, so do the meerkat mobs. The problem comes when two mobs mark the same area. These cute little adorable meerkats can be vicious in a fight. They solve their problems by having fights that are brutal and end up in someone's death. They fight to the death, much like a street gang in our cities. The results are almost always tragic and sad.

Like all small animals, the meerkat is a delicious treat for larger animals. The eagle, jackal, and falcon all find meerkat on the menu a delicacy. When the mob is out looking for food, there is always one mob member on guard. If danger presents itself, he whistles or barks and all run for cover. There are many emergency holes and each meerkat knows where they are. The guard makes a different warning sound if it is a land threat or a threat from the air. This is all just part of mob teamwork!

Another awesome thing about the meerkat is that they have a matriarchal society. The females are slightly larger than the males and yes, grandma is in charge! The dominate female usually has several litters of pups a year. She spaces them out so they come during times of plenty. It takes a lot of food to feed all those hungry mouths.

Not only do the mob have guards, but they have babysitters. The busy mom has lots to do looking for food to feed her growing family. Others will stay behind to teach the young while mom is out looking for food with the gang.  Here in the burrow, they learn how to hide when there is danger. They also learn how to hunt. There are always many insects in the burrow for them to learn with. Life in the burrow is not dull! Another lesson they learn early is how to clean and groom themselves and each other. Deep bonds are formed in these babysitting clubs. The pups spend most of the day in play. When they are happy and content they purr, much like a kitten. The happier they are, the louder the purr.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for the mob to move to a different burrow. These babysitters must help to carry the pups.  Since mom has so many litters close together, she can not do it all. The more babysitters a burrow has, the higher the survival rate is for these precious pups.

If you have never spent some time observing a meerkat, you do not know what you are missing. The mob is happy and content at the San Diego Zoo! While not come on out and meet the gang? They love visitors and will do their best to entertain you. So hop in the car and head for the zoo. Fun is waiting at the San Diego Zoo!

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  1. We have mongoose in the bush close to where we live, they are Oh so clever and quick.

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