Height: up to 30cm high when standing on back legs.
Meerkats live up to 10 years in the wild but up to 15 in captivity.
HABITAT & DISTRIBUTION
Rocky grassland, scrub and desert in the Kalahari desert , which extends through south Angola, Namibia and Botswana, all in southern Africa. They are diurnal (active during the day) and at night live in burrows, which are complex tunnel systems consisting of mounds, access holes and tunnels which lead to numerous sleeping chambers.
WHAT THEY EAT
Bulbous roots constitute a large part of their diet but they also dig up grubs, catch locusts and other insects. They may also eat reptiles, small mammals, birds and eggs.
Meerkats typically live in groups of up to 25 animals but communities may get as large as 40 individuals. They are unusual as they depend on each other for survival.
- The name meerkat comes from the Afrikaans language for marsh cat, which is funny because they are not from marshland and they are not cats!
- Their stomach acts as a sort of solar panel during the winter months. Under a thin layer of stomach hair is a patch of dark skin which absorbs heat from the winter sun in order to provide warmth on cool days.
- Meerkats are very poor at judging distances within 2m and often have to rely on their sense of smell to catch their prey.
- The dark circles around a meerkat’s eyes protect them from the bright sun, a bit like sunglasses! Meerkats have quite a large vocabulary including distinct noises to identify jackals, snakes and birds of prey.
- They are immune to a scorpion sting that could kill a small child and have been observed teaching their young how to bite the sting from a scorpion’s tail.