- Genus/Species: Suricata suricatta
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Location: Plains and deserts of South Africa
Alert and On Guard
Meerkats belong to the mongoose family and they live in burrows dug by other animals. They inhabit the dusty plains and deserts of Africa and have adapted in many ways to their surroundings. They have dark patches around their eyes to cut down on the glare, and special membranes to cover their eyes, while they are digging and burrowing. They can also close their ears to keep out the sand, while their long claws act as very useful tools to help them dig. Meerkats are extremely sociable by nature. The most interesting fact about meerkats is that they spend a lot of time standing upright on their hind legs. They live in large groups, and one of them always stands alertly on guard, while the others hunt for food. They have excellent vision and if danger is sighted, the guard will give a warning bark or whistle, so that the group can run into the nearby burrows and hide.
Meerkats are the size of squirrels - yet they attack even snakes and scorpions without fear because they are immune to the venom of these animals. Their diet consists mainly of insects, spiders, snails, rodents, birds, eggs, lizards and scorpions. Meerkats are intelligent animals that are not endangered because they thrive in their environment. However, they are prey to jackals, eagles, vultures and falcons. In South Africa, these affectionate and timid animals are quite popular as pets.
Did You Know?
- Meerkats have a home territory and they hunt in a different section of this territory each day, returning to the first area after a week.
- Meerkats have scent pouches below their tails which they use to mark their territory.
- Meerkats have an excellent sense of smell that helps them find food even when it is underground.
- When a meerkat is keeping watch, it will make a constant peeping sound known as a watchman’s song.