Xena and Timon are the alpha pair of this quirky and enthusiastic family. Xena arrived after a long period of unsuccessful mating between a female called Sue and Timon. Xena became pregnant almost immediately, and evicted Sue from the group. Unfortunately this meant she had no mature help when her second litter of pups was born, and she then abandoned them, leaving the keepers to hand rear Tsoko, Matata, Zola and Azizi, who now live separately from their parents. Generally only the alpha pair will mate and young not their own will normally be killed. Other females from the group will ‘baby sit’ the alpha pairs pups, lactating to feed them, and risking their own lives to protect them against predators.
A group of Meerkats is called a ‘mob’, ‘gang or ‘clan’, and they live in large underground networks with several entrances which they only leave during the day. They’re small burrowing animals from the mongoose family who are very social, and often live in colonies of up to 20 members, although super-clans have been known that contain over 50 members!
The lifespan of a meerkat is usually around 6-7 years in the wild, and up to 13 in Zoos.
There will always be a sentry on duty watching out for predators, and they have different sounds for each type of predator so that the group knows how to react. Their main threats are birds and snakes, but interestingly they are immune to some types of venom.
Food wise they like to eat insects, lizards, snakes, eggs small mammals and birds, plants and funghi. In the video you can see our meerkats enjoying some very yummy cockroaches mmm....
Fancy getting up close with the meerkats?
For those between 8 and 15 you could take part in a fantastic Junior Keeper for a Day experience which features making enrichment for and feeding these adorable creatures!
Over 16 and you could be a Keeper for a Day which also involves meeting the meerkats as well as some of our larger animals....