The Meerkat Mob at Reid Park Zoo has Grown by Three!
Since February of 2017, the mob of meerkats at Reid Park Zoo have been a visitor favorite with their playful nature and endless digging and sunbathing. These charismatic omnivores have entertained zoo guests for countless hours since their arrival.
Now Zoo guests can expect to see even more! Earlier this month, the Zoo welcomed three female meerkats to the mob on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). By expanding the mob, Reid Park Zoo can continue to educate the public about the dynamic social structure of this species.
As a highly sociable animal, the meerkat can live in groups of up to 50 individuals, usually comprising of a dominant pair and helpers of both sexes. In each group, the dominant male and female are usually the only ones to successfully breed. Meerkats by nature are very territorial and can often display aggressive behaviors when introduced to new animals.
“Although meerkat introductions can be very tricky, we took extra precautions before introducing the groups to each other to help reduce aggressive behaviors,” said Adam Ramsey, Zoo Area Supervisor.
Before introducing the two groups, the animal care staff gave the females logs and other items that the males had previously marked with their scent. Before being exposed to the male scents the females were less assertive about their status in the hierarchy. However when the females saw the males, the aggression between them did increase leading to some bite wounds on two of the females’ faces and neck. Even though they are currently on birth control, there is still a need for the females to be establish their hierarchy. It is common to see some aggressive behavior, such as biting, during this time. Unfortunately, separating the girls is not a good option because once out of the mob it is rare that they can be reintroduced to the others without serious injury.
“We are happy to report the group is getting along well,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, interim Zoo administrator. “We are currently working with local contractors to expanded the meerkat habitat. When we begin construction, the mob will be moved to a behind-the-scenes holding area so they can continue to strengthen their mob.” Construction on the new meerkat is expected to begin later in the spring of 2018.