Meerkats are modern day animal superstars. During recent years they've enjoyed huge popularity thanks to the Animal Planet series Meerkat Mannor. They've also ventured down the path forged by the Geico Gecko by serving as a marketing spokes-animal for the Compare the Meerkat (Market) car insurance comparison website. Here we'll go beyond their public persona and take a closer look at the little mongoose from southern Africa.
Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are highly social mammals that form packs of between 10 and 30 individuals consisting of several breeding pairs. The individuals in a meerkat pack forage together during daylight hours. While some members of the pack feed, one or more members of the pack stand sentry. They prop themselves up on their hind legs and scan the horizon looking for signs of danger. If a predator pops into view, the sentry meerkat lets out a warning bark. The other meerkats immediately run for cover within the many burrows they have throughout their territory.
Meerkats inhabit open, semi-desert and scrublands in south-western and southern Africa. Their range stretches from Angola to South Africa. They prefer habitat with short or sparse woody vegetation, lands often grazed by herds of ungulates. Meerkats are skilled diggers and construct extensive burrows in hard, compacted soil. They often dig multiple burrows throughout their territory. Sometimes they share their underground tunnels with ground squirrels.
- Mass: 1.25 - 2.5 pounds
- Body Length: 10 - 14 inches
- Diet: insects, spiders, scorpions, eggs and small vertebrates
- Age at Sexual Maturity: 1 year
- Number of Offspring: litters often consist of 2 - 5 kits born each year in November
- Predators: birds of prey
- Average Lifespan: 10 years
- Range: south-western and southern Africa including Angola, parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa
- Habitat: semi-desert, scrublands, sparsely wooded or grassy habitat