Meerkat in exhibit

Meerkat

Scientific Name

Suricata suricatta

Geographic Range

Southern Africa

Diet

Insects like grubs and termites (less frequent: small vertebrates, eggs, and plant matter)
Meerkat in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: LEAST CONCERN IUCN Conservation Status: LEAST CONCERN

About This Animal

Meerkats are small members of the mongoose family with brown fur and darker tail tips. Darker eye patches help reduce glare from bright sunlight. They have pointed snouts and powerful foreclaws designed to help them dig and retrieve prey from narrow crevices. Meerkats weigh up to 2.2 pounds and are between 10–14 inches in length, minus their long tails.

These highly social animals live in groups of up to 30 individuals called mobs. Mobs can contain several families living together in different burrows, with females appearing dominant. One member of the mob acts as a sentinel, standing on hind legs and surveying the landscape as the others forage for food. The sentinel lets out a shrill call if a predator is spotted. Sentinel duty rotates between individuals throughout the day.

Most breeding takes place during the warm, rainy season between August and March when food is easiest to obtain. Males initiate the process by fighting with females. Females give birth to litters of two to five offspring after an 11-week gestation period. The young are weaned by nine weeks of age and reach sexual maturity when they are 1 year old.

Meerkats are spread widely across dry, open habitats in southern Africa and experience no major threats.

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We cooperate with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the zoo population of this species through a Species Survival Plan®.

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