Baby meerkats emerge from their burrow
Thursday 10 August 2006
One of ZSL London Zoo’s resident meerkats, Jenny, who was born here in 1997, has given birth to four 'kits' or 'pups' which poked their heads out of their burrow for the first time last week.
Visitors have been delighted by the antics of the four, one of whom is bolder than the rest and can be seen following mum and dad around the enclosure.
Meerkats live in Africa in the wild, in desert or semi-desert habitats.
They are highly sociable animals that live in extensive burrow systems. One of the group acts as sentry on a high vantage point, whilst the others forage for their food.
Meerkats are sun worshippers; members of the adult group can often be seen sunbathing upright with their paws outstretched like angels! Meerkats are often called ‘the solar panels of the animal world’, as they use their dark-skinned, bellies to warm up. They also have natural ‘sunglasses’; the dark markings around their eyes serve to protect them from the powerful glare of the sun.
A group of meerkats, Suricata Suricatta is called a "mob" or a "gang" and in the wild there are usually five to thirty members.
They are extremely helpful animals and various other adults will babysit the youngsters while the mother feeds. One adult can almost always be seen famously ‘keeping watch’ over the group from on high. The Zoo’s enclosure has a two metre high ‘termite mound’ in the centre so that the meerkats can observe the surrounding area just as they would in the wild.
The kits were born underground, where they stayed for the first two or three weeks of their lives. They still retreat to their cosy, dry downstairs dwelling during cold or wet spells of weather.