Since the release of Disney’s beloved classic, The Lion King, in 1994, the meerkat has become one of the most recognizable creatures from Africa. This adorable species is common, yet still one of the animals that tourists hope to see the most on their African safari vacation. The meerkat is a rugged creature, despite its delicate appearance, and is as clever in real life as the witty character, Timon. Seeing these tiny animals in their natural habitat is a real treat. If you are planning your trip to Africa, be sure to keep your eye out for a group of meerkats. In the meantime, let’s celebrate with a few fun facts on this incredible creature.
Unlike in the movie, the meerkat is not a creature that you will find flourishing alone or without its own kind. The meerkat thrives in a family gang with 20 to 50 extended members. The group is led by an alpha pair, yet the female is normally the most dominant out of the two. For the most part, the entire family group is made up of siblings or children of the pair. Just two to four new pups are born from the lead pair every year, who are watched over and even nursed by the entire family gang. They are well aware that their continued survival is dependant on the care of their offspring. They have even been known to risk their own lives to protect these youngsters.
The Watch Guard
One way in which the meerkat shows its intelligence is by the establishment of the family watch guard. Meerkats take turns keeping watch over the brood, scanning the horizon for predators while the rest of the family frolics in the sun in peace. If one of the common predators of the meerkat is spotted, the family member who is standing watch will warn the others with a very distinct bark.
Thriving in the Desert
Meerkats are perfect for life in the desert. The markings around their eyes help to reduce the glare of the sun, while the shape of their eyes allow them to see things in a wide angle view. They are master burrowers, living in an expensive network of tunnels that they dig safely below the ground.
Meerkats are Omnivores
One surprising fact about meerkats is that they are omnivores. They eat both plants and animals, and enjoy delicacies that include bugs. Meerkats are known to eat other small rodents, lizards, scorpions, birds, eggs and fruit. They are wonderful hunters, capable of disarming a scorpion from its poisonous stinger in an instant. Since the meerkat does not store body fat well, they forage for food on a daily basis.
Plan Your African Safari Vacation
Would you like to see the magnificent meerkat up close and personal in its natural habitat? Then keep an eye out on your African safari vacation for one of the cleverest families in the land. To start planning your trip, visit our safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa