Meerkat drawing
  • Relatives: carnivorans → viverrids
  • Habitat: open arid regions and savannahs
  • Diet: insects, small vertebrates, eggs, vegetarian diet
  • Way of life: in family clans
  • Reproduction: gestation period: 11 weeks; 2-5 pups
Habitat meerkats

The diurnal meerkats are native to the open arid regions and savannahs of South Africa. Here the animals live in fixed family clans. They are very agile and constantly occupied – whether it is with foraging or digging new burrows. Their burrows serve as a place of refuge, place to sleep or nursery for the meerkats. The vigilant meerkats never go all too far away from their burrow within the foraging area, which are up to 1,000 hectares in size. This is why their cave systems must be constantly expanded. Occasionally they also take over alien burrows of other animals. Meerkats also spend a lot of time foraging. But in addition to vegetarian diet, insects, small vertebrates, scorpions, snakes and spiders are also part of the diet of the small carnivorans. They are immune to the venoms of scorpions and snakes. In order to avoid unpleasant injuries through the sting of scorpions, they quickly try to render them harmless with a targeted bite.

Life in an extended family
The parents get support with the rearing of offspring through the entire colony. The young meerkats also learn how to correctly handle prey animals from their family members. Initially they are presented with dead scorpions. Then advanced young meerkats practice with living animals whose sting has already been bitten off, until they eventually hunt intact animals under the supervision of other meerkats. The offspring learns what else is important from the older animals, such as keeping watch. While the meerkats are busy with the search for food, burrowing and so on, a sentry always stands on a hill on their hind legs and keeps watch. If everything is in order, the animal makes itself heard with a long, consistent peep at the start of its sentry duty. If danger threatens, the meerkat warns its fellow species with a loud whistle, and the animals flee into the protective burrow.

You can experience these and many other animals at Rostock Zoo, home to 4,500 animals in 450 different species from all over the world.