Genus & Species: Suricata suricatta
Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.
Prefer dry, open country.
7 to 10 inch body plus 10 to 14 inch tail; weight 1.4 to 2.13 pounds. Females larger than males.
In captivity, 12 ½ years.
Mostly insects, spiders, and other invertebrates but also eat plant bulbs and small terrestrial vertebrates. Very omnivorous in captivity.
The narrow, pointed muzzle, the dark ring of fur around the eyes and the black tip on the slender tail separate this mongoose from others. The head and belly are light tan to white. The long outer fur of the back is grizzled grey and marked by darker grey bars. The deeper, inner fur is rufous colored and the tail is greyish-yellow except for the black tip. The claws are long and powerful.
Offspring: 2 to 5
Incubation: About 11 weeks.
Parental care: Female suckles and tends young for 7 to 9 weeks.
- Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:
Meerkats are very social animals. Two to three families with as many as 15 individuals usually live together in permanent social groups. One of the adult females (females are larger than males) usually dominates the group. The home area is a rock crevice or a burrow system dug into the hard ground. The meerkats stay in their group as they search the area for food. Vision is one of their best developed senses, and one meerkat usually acts as a sentinel, standing on its hind legs and searching the sky for predatory hawks. Like many other social animals, the meerkats have several different vocalizations. If the sentinel sees danger, it gives a warning call. There are also “come to food” calls, contact calls between mothers and babies, chatters, whines and barks. Babies purr when suckling. Meerkats love to sunbathe and are often seen standing up with the sun on their bellies. Scent marking, which consists of rubbing their anal regions on the ground or rocks, is common. Young meerkats spend a lot of time playing. Adult males, but not adult females, sometimes play with the young. Their primary predators are the Martial eagle and jackals.
Meerkats are kept as pets in some parts of the world and are said to be very affectionate. However, meerkat owners in the United States are required to have special permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as these animals are classified as “injurious wildlife.”