View from the Zoo: Meerkats have lots of social interaction

Meerkats in their enclosure at Flamingo Land.
Meerkats in their enclosure at Flamingo Land.

At Flamingo Land we have two groups of meerkats. Our largest group is found in the Children’s Planet area and is made up of six individuals so they have lots of social interactions between the members of their group.

The other group are near baboon island and consists two females and a male.

The collective noun for meerkats is a mob and they will sometimes huddle together to share body heat on chilly days.

Grooming may occur to help clean each other’s fur and strengthen relationships. At least one meerkat will be on look out duties to alert the group of any dangers or predators. Each member of the group will take their turn at look out duty.

Meerkats have developed a range of vocalisations to communicate with the rest of the group such as purrs, growls and alarm calls to distinguish between different behaviours and threats they may see.

Generally a meerkat will live to be around 13 years old in captivity; however during this time they may never mate and raise offspring of their own.

The mob usually contains one alpha male and female who are the only individuals permitted to mate. Other members of the group will help to raise any young from the alpha pair, and females can even lactate to help feed them.

Three is the average litter size for meerkats and they can be born any time of year, but it is usually during the summer months.

The litter would stay underground in a burrow for the first three weeks of their life, they would then join the rest of the group and begin to learn of the dangers from predators, such as eagles and jackals.

Their diet can consist of a range of items. They are omnivores so therefore eat a variety of insects, lizards, snakes, scorpions, eggs, fungi and fruit.

The meerkats at Flamingo Lane are also very fond of dry cat food. They have very sharp teeth and claws which enables them to dig burrows and search for food.

Young meerkats will often shadow an adult so they can learn how to hunt the trickier creatures such as scorpions and snakes.