As summer approaches and the days continue to get hotter it’s all getting too much for some of our animals here at Flamingo Land. One of our meerkats was caught sleeping on the job. Instead of watching out for possible threats this little guy’s eyes could be seen slowly closing, his head drooping and almost falling over just like something in a cartoon! Clearly it was just too hot to stay awake.
There are two groups of meerkats at Flamingo Land, one in the Lost Kingdom and one in Children’s Planet. A group of meerkats is called a mob or gang. Meerkats are social animals and members of the group take it in turns babysitting, foraging for food, teaching infants and watching for danger. In the wild there is usually a sentry guard who stands tall looking out for predators so he can warn his friends and family. This behaviour still happens in zoos, even though there is no risk of predation, which is why it’s not such a disaster that this meerkat was dozing at his post!
The slender-tailed meerkats at Flamingo Land can be found in the western deserts of Southern Africa where they eat a variety of food including insects, worms, small rodents, lizards, bird eggs and even scorpions and snakes! In the wild, adult meerkats will pull the stingers off scorpions before letting their offspring practise catching and eating them. This gives their pups valuable experience while ensuring that they are in no real danger.
Meerkats have an average lifespan of 10 years. In a mob only the dominant male and female breed. Meerkats are pregnant for around 70 days and will have between 2-5 offspring. The entire mob will then take care of the young. The black tip at the end of each meerkat’s tail is unique, helping to identify them to other members of the mob. This is useful as they are social animals with up to 40 living in a group.
Although the sun seems to make them sleepy, meerkats are well adapted to life in hot conditions. They have black patches around their eyes which act as sunglasses, allowing them to see clearly even on bright days (assuming their eyes are open!). They are tan and black coloured which gives them camouflage against the sand. They can also close their ears to prevent sand getting in when they are digging. Meerkats’ curved front claws act as shovels and they can move several hundred times their body weight in sand in one day!
Make sure to watch out for our meerkats relaxing in the sun next time you visit and see if you can spot any particularly lazy individuals! Or to see them up close and personal you can book in for an animal encounter where you have the opportunity to get into their enclosure. That would definitely wake them up!