Distribution: Southern Africa
Habitat: Dry sandy plains with little vegetation
Description: The Slender-tailed Meerkat’s coat is a light silvery-brown colour with dark stripes on its back. The eyes are ringed with dark fur. The meerkat has a tail that is 17–25 cm long with a dark tip on the end. Its long front claws are used for digging burrows and finding food.
Diet: Meerkats are omnivores. They eat insects, spiders and other small animals, as well as roots and bulbs.
In the wild: Slender-tailed Meerkats live in large social groups of up to 30 members. While most of the group are out foraging for food, ‘sentries’ are posted as look-outs for predators such as eagles or cobras. Sentries stand on their hindlegs so they can get a better view of approaching predators. When a threat is sighted, the sentries let out an alarm and the meerkats dive into their burrows. When there is no threat, the sentries make a continuous low, steady peeping sound to let the group know they’re still on guard.
Threats: The meerkat is fairly common in Africa. Its main predators are raptors, like hawks and eagles, and jackals and snakes.
At Perth Zoo: Perth Zoo has two colonies in the African Savannah where the meerkats’ typical natural behaviours can be observed.
Did you know? Meerkats make at least 10 different vocalisations. These include a threatening growl and an alarm bark. As they search for food, they utter a ‘vurruk-vurruk’ sound.
In Africa, meerkats are kept as pets and used to keep the mice population down, especially on farms.