Meet the Meerkats
Before the recent series of highly amusing TV adverts, most people had never heard of a Meerkat! These endearing creatures are actually part of the Mongoose family (despite their claims to the contrarary!), known as Suricates in Africa and living in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. They also occur in the Namib Desert in Namibia and south west Angole and in various parts of South Africa including around the Klein Karroo and Oudtshoorn and other parts of the Western Cape.
They live in highly social groups called a ‘mob’, ‘clan’ or a ‘gang’, usually of around 20 individuals but some families have been known to have 50 or more members. They live around 12-14 years in the wild.
Getting up close to and observing these furry little creatures is a fabulous experience. There are several places in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where you can see semi-habituated groups which are used to being researched and let you get very close! The best time to see them is very early in the morning as you walk to their den area and sit with your eyes trained on their burrows in the ground. Watch as the fury head peep out and one by one, sleepy meerkats gather in the sun. They often stand in rows like dominoes and can be seen drifting asleep in that pose too! There is a sentry appointed in each group who will find the highest vantage point wherever the clan are and keep watch for incoming predators.
Animals in the groups groom each other and have strong social bonds. There is an alpha pair and the others in the group will babysit the alpha females young. Females who have never had their own young often lactate and feed the alpha’s babies. Meerkats are mainly insectivores but will also eat lizards, snakes, plants, eggs and other things.
If you want to know where to go to include the magical meerkats on your African Safari, please get in touch!