This small, charismatic mongoose is without doubt one of Africa’s most popular and engaging animals.
Meerkats are highly sociable and live in large colonies, averaging 20–30 members, who are usually all siblings, or offspring, of the alpha pair. Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behavior within their colonies. While the group is foraging or playing, at least one Meerkat will always stand on guard as ‘sentry’, and will alert others of approaching dangers by giving a warning bark.
Meerkats are burrowing animals and during the night, they live in large underground networks consisting of multiple entrances and complex tunnel systems, leading to numerous sleeping chambers. They have very sharp, non-retractile claws, making them expert diggers and they also have the unique ability to close their ears to keep the dirt out whilst they’re digging!
Chester Zoo’s colony of Meerkats consists of a dominant adult pair and their offspring. Observing our Meerkats is a heartening and often entertaining experience. They love to groom, wrestle and play with one another and their curious nature means they are interested in everything! Even with all this play and living within the safety of their Chester Zoo enclosure, one of the adult pair will always be on lookout!
Where they live: Widespread in the western parts of southern Africa, including western and southern Namibia, south-western Botswana, and north and west South Africa.
Habitat: Arid, open country, characterised by short grasses and sparse woody growth. Meerkats are absent from true desert and forested areas, and also from mountainous terrain.
Size: Head to tail length 42-60cm
Conservation status: IUCN Red List: Least Concern
Threats: There are no major threats to this species.