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Meerkat Dies at Smithsonian's National Zoo

  • Meerkat Dogo rests in the sand of his habitat in the Small Mammal House.
    Meerkat Dogo rests in the sand in his habitat at the Small Mammal House.
  • Meerkat Dogo suns himself in his habitat at the Small Mammal House.
    Meerkat Dogo rests in a sunny spot in his habitat at the Small Mammal House.
  • Meerkat Dogo participates in a target training session with Small Mammal House keeper Ann Gutowski.
    Meerkat Dogo participates in a target training session with Small Mammal House keeper Ann Gutowski.

We are sad to share that Dogo, the last meerkat at the Small Mammal House, was humanely euthanized Aug. 23. At 14 years old, he lived four years beyond the median life expectancy for meerkats.

For several years, our animal care team treated Dogo for health issues related to old age, including spondylosis, arthritis and an enlarged heart. Over the past two weeks, keepers noticed that he was urinating and defecating in odd places. A veterinary exam Aug. 23 revealed his spinal disease had progressed. Vets suspected this contributed to Dogo’s abnormal urination. The team elected to euthanize Dogo given his poor prognosis and declining quality of life. A final pathology report will provide more information in the coming weeks.

Dogo was born at the Small Mammal House in 2007, one year after his parents arrived at the Zoo. Dogo’s last remaining family member—his sister, Baya—was euthanized in May 2020. The team elected to not bring in new meerkats, as individuals from different colonies are notoriously difficult to introduce. Given his age and health issues, they were concerned he would be picked on.  

To meet Dogo’s social needs, keepers prioritized spending time with him. He voluntarily participated in husbandry training sessions, which provided an outlet for physical and mental exercise. On cue, Dogo presented his feet for nail trims, stepped onto a scale and accepted keepers’ touch on his back for health checks.

Dogo shared his habitat with two Von der Decken hornbills and multiple plush meerkat toys, which he often sat next to. He seemed to enjoy relaxing against the glass or sunning atop his bed. Dogo was a wonderful and charismatic ambassador for his species and will be greatly missed. We hope to bring meerkats back to the Zoo in future.