Keepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have been training with a group of meerkats to prepare them to appear in a special weekend of live demonstrations with BBC’s Deadly presenter Steve Backshall, on 25 – 27 July.
Among other mammals and birds, the Deadly summer shows will feature the four female meerkats, Gabby, April, Digger and Pipsqueak, exhibiting a range of natural meerkat behaviours, such as “standing sentinel” on top of a termite mound to look out for approaching dangers.
The furry four are also being trained to scamper after and pin down rubber snakes and scorpions for the demonstrations, and run through underground tunnels. They also show off their impressive digging skills!
Although mostly insectivores, wild meerkats also eat snakes, lizards and occasionally small birds. They even have some immunity to certain types of venom, such as the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert.
Deputy Team Leader Rebecca Feenan, said: “Training our meerkats here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo isn’t too different to training our birds of prey. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of it comes down to the relationship you build with each animal.
“Gabby, April, Digger and Pipsqueak don’t have very long now until the big Deadly weekend, so fingers crossed they pick it all up before Steve arrives!”
The Deadly summer shows run from 25 – 27 July at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and tickets can be booked at www.zsl.org/deadly