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Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

After emerging from their cool underground burrows, meerkats start each day with a sunbath.

Description:

About 12 inches long, meerkats have a tan or gray coat, with a pale underside. Their eyes are ringed with black, and their tails have a black tip. Their slender body is typical of mongooses.

Home Range:

Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa

Habitat:

Grassland, scrub forest, and desert

Diet:

Insects, primarily, but also lizards, small reptiles, eggs, and vegetation

Reproduction:

After a two-and-a-half-month gestation, a meerkat gives birth to a litter of two to five young. The young, called pups, are weaned at seven to nine weeks.

Social Structure:

Meerkats live in groups of two or three families, with as many as 30 individuals. The groups are called mobs. Throughout the day, adults take turns serving as sentries, looking out for predators. When a potential threat is seen, the sentinel will make an alarm bark, and the meerkats will flee to their underground burrows.