Meerkat

Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

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Quick Facts

Body Length: Body length: 10 to 14 inches; tail length: 7 to 10 inches
Height: Up to 20 inches when standing erect on their hind legs
Weight: 1.4 to 2 pounds
Distribution: Western parts of southern Africa, western and southern Namibia, southwestern Botswana, northern and western South Africa, and extreme southwestern Angola
Habitat: Dry areas (including the Namib and Kalahari Deserts), with sandy or hard and even stony ground; they avoid forests, mountains, and true deserts
Wild Diet: Centipedes, and scorpions: also bird and reptile eggs, rats, mice, small birds, lizards, snails, and plants
Zoo Diet: Cat food, dry dog food, vegetables, bugs (crickets, mealworms, etc.), ribs, fish, and mice

Sentry Duty

When it comes to looking out for danger, few creatures are as vigilant as meerkats.  Meerkats are active during the day, spending most of the time looking for food.  During this time they are vulnerable to predators, such as birds of prey, snakes, monitor lizards, and any other large carnivore.  To protect the colony, one meerkat usually has sentry duty while the others hunt.  The sentry takes up a position high on a rock or log.  He or she sits erect, even standing sometimes sniffing the wind and scanning the area for danger.  If this look-out detects trouble, it lets out one of several alarm calls.  One call means "Danger is imminent, run for cover!" A different call means, "Danger might be nearby, so be on guard."

 

Description

Meerkat fur is light grizzled gray to tan with dark brown bands across the sides and back. Their head and throat are grayish-white. Their eye rings, ears, and tail tip are black. Their underfur is reddish brown. They have a long, slender body, long fur, and short legs. Their head is quite short and wide but ends in a pointed muzzle. They have very small, rounded ears. The front and back feet have four toes and nonretractable claws. They have a well-developed anal gland. Females have two or three pairs of teats.

Status in the Wild

Meerkats are not endangered

Conservation Programs
  • Listed as “least concern" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)
  • There are no major threats to this species.
  • There are marked changes in population density due to changes in rainfall and subsequent food availability.
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