Common Name: Meerkat
Name: Suricata suricatta
Suricates spend a lot of their time on guard looking out for predators. (Meerkat is a South African Dutch word meaning 'lake cat' since Meerkats are often found near stretches of water). Suricates have a tan to grey coat with brown bands on the back and sides, the head and the throat are greyish white.
Their eyes are ringed with black and they have black rounded ears and a black tip to the tail. Like all mongooses, they have long slender bodes and short limbs.
Habitat: Savannah .
Distribution: Southern Africa ( Angola , Namibia , South Africa and Botswana ).
The name "meerkat" comes from the dutch language, "meer" meaning lake or expanse of water, because suricates are often found around water.
Diet Description: Insects, spiders and other small animals, roots and bulbs.
Size: Length: 25-35cm, Tail: 17-25cm, Weight: 600-975g
Socialisation: Suricate (Meerkats) are diurnal. They live in colonies of up to 30. The groups consist of 2-3 family units comprising a male, a female and their 2-5 young. They usually inhabit the burrows of ground squirrels, which they enlarge by digging with their sharp claws.
When emerging from their burrows in the early morning they tend to sunbathe before spending the day foraging for small prey.
Adults take it in turns to stand on sentry, finding a convenient vantage point where they can watch for predators, such as eagles. If danger is sighted, the sentry gives a warning bark and the meerkats flee to the safety of their burrows. If the threat is a snake, the adults will huddle together and drive it away. While sentries keep watch other meerkats take care of the young.
Reproduction: Gestation is 11 weeks. The females give birth to 2-5 young in a nursery chamber of the burrow.
Meerkats are cute and meerkat babies are simply irresistible. They are very social, smart and in many cases would not leave your lap if you let them. But they are also fierce carnivorous animals and their social structure is very, very strict. Rules are drawn very clearly and crossing them leads to immediate punishment. Calming signals, which allow little meerkats to avoid being hurt or even killed by her own kind, are taught early on and they are not to be discussed or challenged. This is how the wild meerkats learn to survive in their community. And this is the skill which can only be taught by a family of meerkats. The babies that grow outside of this structure in a human family become very confused. They are loved and spoiled, but people cannot teach them proper meerkat ways and discipline. A few of these babies will grow to be sweet and affectionate adults, only occasionally showing bad temper and biting. Many will grow to be very confused animals, often angry and "disciplining" people for their "mistakes" as they see them, with fierce bites. Some will grow to be extremely aggressive and will actually go after people to bite whenever they get a chance. Bad meerkats? - no, just confused and unhappy animals, not sure who they are or how they should behave, not quite fitting in with the humans and no longer part of the meerkat family either.
Only growing up in a “mob” from the early days allows meerkats to develop into the healthy and content animals they should be. If you find or are offered a meerkat baby, please seek the help immediately and take her to the place, like Tenikwa, where they can be early introduced into the existing mob and taken care of by their own kind. Keeping them as pets will only work for a year or so and soon the problems will surpass your pleasure of having little meerkat running free in your house. But then it will be too late for this little animal to develop into the happy healthy creature, as these lessons have to be taught in childhood. Please, think about it now!