The meerkat is a member of the mongoose family. They get their name from the Afrikaans word for 'watching' or 'looking' cat, as a member of the group is always on sentry duty keeping watch for predators.
Interesting fact: The dark patches around the Meerkat's eyes shield them from the glare of the African sun, rather Iike built-in sunglasses!
They are found throughout the dry and arid terrain of the Kalahari Desert. Threats are mainly natural predators; large snakes hunt Meerkats but they are fiercely defensive and even when they get bitten they often survive venomous snake bites because they have developed a level of immunity to venom.
Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals and, more rarely, small birds. Meerkats are one of the very few predators of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert. They have no excess body fat stores, so foraging for food is a daily requirement.
Breeding and social dynamics
A group of meerkats are called a “mob” “gang” or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 animals. They have a strong social structure and are led by an 'alpha' pair. It is the alpha pair who breed up to 4 times a year. After a gestation of about 77 days a litter of up to 5 blind pups are born in an underground den. Pups start to leave the den after three weeks.