Meerkat in exhibit
Scientific Name
Suricata suricatta
Geographic Range
Southern Africa
Insects like grubs and termites (also, small vertebrates, eggs, and plant matter)
Meerkat in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern

More Information

Meerkats are small and slender members of the mongoose family. They are usually between 10–14 inches in length, not counting their tail, and weigh up to 2.2 pounds. They have grizzled gray and brown fur and a dark tip on their tail. Meerkats use their powerful foreclaws for digging and their pointed snout to help them retrieve prey from narrow crevices.

Meerkats live in groups of up to 30 individuals, called a mob. When threatened, the whole group bands together to intimidate predators or other meerkat mobs. They use burrows for cover, and these burrows may have extensive tunnel and room systems that stay cool underground. Peak breeding takes place during the warm, rainy seasons. Female meerkats have an 11-week gestation and give birth to litters of two to five offspring. These young resemble adults by two months of age, but they aren’t adults until about one year after birth. Then, females are banished from the family to find another mob.

Did You Know?

  • Meerkat groups are made up of several families, and females are dominant.
  • In a meerkat mob, one individual is always on sentinel duty, watching for predators while others forage. The sentinel can often be seen standing on hind legs using their tail as a support. Sentinels rotate throughout the day. If they spot a predator, they produce a shrill call warning the others to take cover.
  • Meerkats have dark patches around their eyes that reduce glare from bright sunlight, like the way American football players place black strips below their eyes for protection against the sun and stadium lights.
Species Survival Plan logo

Species Survival Plan®

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®.

Learn More

Animal Care staff working with seal

Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care.

Learn More

Support Your Zoo

Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

Animals Depend On People Too

When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.

Adopt an Animal

Asian small-clawed otter in exhibit

Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy.

Browse the Wish List

African penguin eating a fish

Take Action With Us

Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

Take Action

Empty Playlist