Meerkats are a diurnal species with social customs. They are burrowing animals that live in big subterranean burrows. They are often seen in group and their colonies can be formed by up to 40 individuals.
Meerkats, also called suricates or suricata suricatta are little mammals belonging to the mongoose family (herpestidae). Suricates live in the regions of Kalahari Desert and Namib Desert.
Both males and females normally weight around 1.6 pounds. The body, with a length of 10-14 inches, and the limbs of these animals are long and slender. Their thin and conical tail is 7-10 inches long. Unlike most mongooses, the suricate lacks of bushy fur.
Meerkats have a conical face that tapers to a pointed nose. They have small crescent shape ears. The colour of their fur varies depending on the geography. Their hair is darker if they live in the South and fairer when they live in arid zones. Generally their fur is grey, brown or cinnamon-coloured. Their nose is brown and their tail is yellow and cinnamon and black at the end. The underside of their body is partially covered with hair. Their claws are adapted so they can dig.
Meerkats have black patches around their eyes and black bands in their back, except in their head and their tail.
Behaviour and feeding
Meerkats live in the southern tip of Africa, concretely in the west and south of Namibia, in the southwestern Botswana and northern and western South Africa. There is a small colony in the southwestern tip of Angola. They also live in the low-altitude areas of Lesotho.
They live in more arid and open areas than any other species of mongoose. They can be seen in savannas and in plains. They prefer to settle on firm and hard ground.
Did you know that...?
The species shows a great variety of strategies against predators. They know how to make alarm calls, to look for shelther when they feel they are in danger, to attack a predator in group, to defend themselves and to protect the youngest in the group.
While threatening and harassing their predators, meerkats seem to be bigger than they really are. They can arch their back so that they look as high as possible on their four legs. They also erect their hair and tail and put down their head. At the same time, meerkats move forward and backward, growl, hiss and spit in an attempt to intimidate the enemy. They usually react in group -in a simultaneous way- with this behaviour when they want to harass their predator. If a predator approaches them despite these warnings, meerkats sit on their predator?s back showing their claws. Thus they protect the back of their neck. The way adults protect their babies with their own bodies is really amazing.