Meerkat

Least concern
Scientific name : Suricata suricatta

Where do they live?

They live in arid, open areas in southern Africa: mainly in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Did you know?

A very social animal
Meerkats are highly social and live in groups of 3 to 40 individuals. They spend lots of time grooming one another and marking each other with their anal glands. During meals, each meerkat makes a small sound to maintain contact with the other members of the group. The young are taken care of by all the adults in the group, including those who do not reproduce. When a meerkat is attacked, the whole group unites to defend it.

The meerkat, or suricate, feeds mainly on invertebrates. It digs elaborate burrows to protect against predators, the sun and the cold at night. They sometimes share the burrow with other small mammals, such as squirrels.

In each group, the dominant couple is generally the only one that reproduces successfully. To guard against predators, a member of the group takes position in the high ground as a sentinel, standing on its hind legs. It regularly reassures the other members by making a small sound. If a danger occurs, it alerts the others with a repetitive call that gets louder and louder. Different individuals take turns at the role of sentinel.

Length

17 to 25 cm.

Weight

620 to 970 g.

Life expectancy

5 to 15 years in the wild, around 12 years in captivity.

Gestation period

11 weeks.

Number of litters

Up to 3 per year.

Human-Animal Connection

Welcome assistance for crops

As of now, the species does not suffer from any particular threats. They are found in several protected areas, including Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park between South Africa and Botswana. In their native environment, meerkats help control the population of destructive insects, in particular lepidopterans, thus providing valuable assistance for agricultural crops.