Meerkat

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Range
Portions of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, extending from the southwest arid biotic zone and eastward into southern savanna and grassland areas.

Habitat
Meerkats live in open and arid country. They are found in areas of savannah and open plains with firm to hard soils as the common living ground. They live in burrows dug to about 4.9 feet with approx. 15 entrances and two or three levels with interconnecting chambers that remain cool even in the hot sun.

Distinguishing Characteristics
Adult meerkats are 10-14” long and weigh about 2 lbs. Their coloring varies geographically but generally a peppered tan, gray or brown with dark patches around the eyes to reduce glare. The tips of their tails are black. Their eye sockets are large to facilitate excellent vision, and their ears can close up to keep sand out while digging.

METHOD OF TEMPERATURE REGULATION: Endothermic. During periods of high temperature, meerkats return to their burrows to cool off.

Dietary Classification
Diet in the Zoo: mealworms, cat food and vegetables

Diet in the Wild: Meerkats are mainly insectivorous but will readily consume eggs, plant matter and small vertebrates, such as lizards and scorpions. Meerkats have some immunity to scorpions stings, but parents still bite off the tails before giving live ones to young for them to practice.

Life Span
Have been known to live over 12 years in captivity and live between 5-15 years in the wild.

Behavior/Adaptations
Meerkats are highly social animals living in "gangs" or "mobs" of up to 3 family groups in a matriarchal society. There may be as many as 30 individuals in a group with each group having one adult breeding pair.

Meerkats exhibit sentinel behavior where one member of the group poses as a lookout for predators and other danger. An alarm is sounded by a distinct bark. Ten different vocalizations have been identified for different predators.

Status
Not threatened