For Release: May 10, 2006
Sarah Taylor (202) 633-3081
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
National Zoo's Small Mammal House Exhibits New Animals
The Smithsonian's National Zoo is exhibiting a new species and a new generation of species this month. A group of meerkats and two litters of Prevost's squirrels are now delighting visitors with their frisky antics at the Small Mammal House.
Meerkats, a species of mongoose from Southern Africa, are active and social animals. They live in small packs and spend most of their time foraging, basking in the sun and grooming. One member of the pack acts as a sentinel, keeping watch for predators and alerting the group in case of danger. Their powerful foreclaws help them dig in the dirt in search of foodtypically insects such as termites and grubs.
At the National Zoo, visitors will see these charismatic animals dig though the sand in their exhibit searching for tasty mealworms and crickets, and scurrying though tunnels fabricated by keepers.
In mid-February, each of the National Zoo's Prevost's squirrel females gave birth to a litter of two offspring. Newborn Prevost's squirrels are born very vulnerable and spend the first five or six weeks of their life in the nest built buy their mother. It wasn't until April that Small Mammal House staff could even see the newborns in the exhibit.
Now the kits are old enough to spend the majority of their time out of the nest, leaping from branch to branch in their exhibits. One pair of babies is on exhibit inside the Small Mammal House, and the other pair is on exhibit outside. These Southeast Asian animals are known for their brilliant coloringthe top of their bodies and tail is jet black, their underside is reddish brown and a white stripe separates the black from the red.
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Note to editors: Photos of the meerkats and Prevost's squirrels are available through the National Zoo's Office of Public Affairs.