New Addition to the Mob: Reid Park Zoo Welcomes Meerkat Pups

Reid Park Zoo is welcoming five meerkat pups, the first-ever of the species born at the 24-acre zoological gardens.

In the early morning on April 9, animal care professionals on rounds discovered three adult meerkats huddled protectively over a pile of tiny moving legs. They found the pups had been born overnight.

Meerkat pups are largely helpless for the first few weeks of life, born with both eyes and ears shut and very little hair. In meerkat societies, adults share child-rearing roles. “All three adults, who are also first-time parents, are doing an excellent job of parenting,” said Animal Care Supervisor Adam Ramsey. “Both females are nursing, grooming and cuddling the babies to keep them warm.”

Meerkats are sensitive to disturbances, especially when pups are present. To maintain a low-stress environment, the Zoo’s animal care team is having minimal contact with the meerkats. The pups are being kept in a quiet, cozy and secluded place off habitat and won’t go outside until they are about 12 weeks old. At that time, their sex can also be determined.

Meerkats arrived at Reid Park Zoo in 2017 as part of a breeding recommendation in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “It is rewarding to see the meerkats thriving and now having offspring,” added Ramsey. “These curious creatures are fun to observe with their high energy. They are among the most popular animals at the Zoo, especially for children, because they are so playful.”

A member of the mongoose family, meerkats are catlike carnivores found in the desert and grasslands of Africa. They live in groups known as mobs with a dynamic social structure where group members rotate responsibilities, including taking turns standing “sentry” on their hind legs to watch for predators. They are also masters at digging tunnels, which they use for protection. The species was popularized by the character Timon in the movie “The Lion King” and in the television show “Meerkat Manor.”

“We are proud of our new little family and can’t wait for the pups to make their public debut,” said Nancy Kluge, president and CEO of Reid Park Zoo. The meerkat birth is the second major birth for the Zoo in April 2020. On April 6, the Zoo welcomed a 295-pound female African elephant calf.