African Meerkat

The meerkat, also known as a suricate, is a squirrel-sized member of the mongoose family. Characterized by their upright posture, they spend their time scanning the plains of Southern Africa for danger. For these gregarious little creatures danger comes primarily from the sky. They are the favorite prey for many African birds of prey such as eagles and hawks.

These little guys live in very tight knit family units, the size of the group varies greatly and sometimes you will see multiple families living together in a community. Within the community there is a very strict hierarchy.

Meerkats have a matriarchal society; the females of the species are generally slightly larger than the males. A single adult female leads the group, however everyone has a job to do. While hunting, a few members of the group serves as lookouts, giving a sharp shrill cry when there is danger, letting every member of the group know to take cover.

There are also body guards in the group, charged with protecting the unit from rival groups. These animals are generally male. Meanwhile everyone else in the group focuses on what is really important, food!

Meerkats feed on a large variety of insects, small lizards, birds, and whatever fruit they can find. While foraging, the group works together using purring noises to alert the rest of the group when food is found. Meerkats are excellent hunters; sometimes they are tamed as pets and used for pest control around the home.

Meerkats live in extensive borrow systems, with each group utilizing multiple borrows and often switching from one to another. Each borrow has a very complex tunnel and room system that stays cool even during the hottest part of the day.

The females give birth and raise their young in these rooms. Each litter consists of 2-4 young; they generally only have one litter per year. The males and siblings in the group help to raise the babies, teaching them how to forage for food and play, keeping an eye out and alerting them whenever there is danger near.

In many cases, young meerkats will even run for cover at the sight of an airplane overhead.

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