The Kinsmen Discovery Centre at the Assiniboine Park Zoo has recently been filled with the tiny calls of its first meerkat baby in 20 years!
The zoo’s newest addition was born November 3, 2009 and is the first since 1989. The pup, now six weeks old, is eating some solids but staying close to its mom. The other females in the group are also busy, acting as babysitters just as they would in the wild.
The new pup is full of energy and getting out of the burrows to explore the enclosure. Zookeepers have noticed that this pup is a brave one, even trying to push the adult males off of their food so the pup can eat first.
Don’t wait to visit; meerkats are considered pups only for the first 10 months.
Meerkats at the Assiniboine Park Zoo
- Our group, as of December 2009, consists of 2.3.1 meerkats.
- Our two males are from Riverview Park Zoo and the Peterborough Zoo. They arrived at here in November of 2003.
- Our three females came from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa in October of 2008. They are born in late 2005/early 2006.
- Our meerkat colony is not part of a Species Survival Program since the species is listed by the IUCN as a “Species of Least Concern”.
A Bit of Biology/Ecology:
- Meerkats are immune to small amounts of scorpion venom and they often prey on them. Meerkats remove the scorpion’s stinger and brush off the body in the sand to remove any residual traces of venom just to be safe.
- Meerkats can close their ears – to prevent sand entering them.
- Meerkats have a nictitating membrane, or clear third eyelid, to keep sand out of their eyes.
- The meerkat (Suricata suricata) is a member of the mongoose family.
- Dry grassland, often on hard or stony ground, in southern Africa
- The meerkat is most closely associated with the dry open country of the Kalahari Desert, with its short grass and sparse woody scrub.
- Meerkats could be classified as insectivores as more than 80% of their diet includes insects as well as other invertebrates like scorpions.
- Meerkats are generally classed as omnivores because they also include bird eggs, plant roots/fruits, lizards and snakes in their diet.
- Meerkats are active during the day (diurnal) so members of a group take turns watching for predators. There is always at least one of sentinel (standing upright on high ground or termite nest) on active “guard duty” at all times.
- The meerkats’ main predators are birds of prey.
- Meerkats share their burrow with African ground squirrels.
- They also share their burrow with several types of beetles including dung beetles.
- Meerkats live in multi-tunnel burrows with an average of 15 entrances. There are many rooms in a burrow, many at 1.5 to 2 metres below the ground.
- A body length of 10 – 12 inches
- A tail length of 8 – 10 inches
- Weigh less than 2.2 lbs (<1kg)
- A colony or mob averages 15 individuals in the wild. It can range from a single pair to as many as 50 members and contain several related families.
- The dominant female is the only one to breed when food is scarce. She will allow related females to breed if there is enough food to sustain the extra babies.
- At all times, non-breeding females will help baby-sit the offspring.
- As long as 12 to 15 years in captivity
- Up to 10 years in the wild but the average is only 3 years.
Compiled by Scott Gray, Education Director, Zoological Society of Manitoba
References: Arkive, National Geographic, Kalahari Meerkat Group, Assiniboine Park Zoo