These long-bodied, desert dwellers are a member of the mongoose family. They possess many adaptations perfect for a hot, dry environment. The darker regions around their eyes serve as “sunglasses” of sorts, to reduce the glare from the harsh sunlight. Their bodies are a tan color with darker brown spots or stripes on their back.
Diet: Meerkats are carnivores, and will eat just about anything available. Their diet mostly consists of insects, but also can include arachnids, snails, birds, rodents, small reptiles, and even eggs.
In the Wild: Meerkats are diurnal, and can be found basking in the sun and warming themselves before a long day of hunting. Meerkats are extremely social animals, and cooperate as an altruistic society with one another in groups of up to 40 individuals. These groups of meerkats, also referred to as a “mob” live in a complex system of tunnels with an average of 15 entrance and exit holes, and several levels of tunnels and chambers. They rely on their numbers and companionship to stay safe having at least one individual always standing guard.. Meerkats spend a great deal of time grooming and playing with each other to strengthen the bond of mob-members.
Conservation issues/actions: Meerkat populations seem to be doing well in the wild and within zoos. Media and television has brought a lot of attention to the meerkat species. While no one can deny that these are adorable creatures, it is very important that everyone respect the meerkat as a wild animal. These are not pets. Taking a stand in advocating against illegal pet trade is a good way to help preserve wild meerkat populations.
At the Zoo:
At the Reid Park Zoo, you may see our meerkats basking in the sun, warming up their bodies before a long day of play, hunting, and other social behaviors. Animal care staff will often enrich our meerkats’ day with live insects, such as mealworms and crickets.