Slender-tailed Meerkat

ZOO LOCATION: African Rift Valley & Encounter Africa

Lifespan: 10-15 years

Wild Diet: Worms, crickets, grasshoppers, small rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, fruit and ant larvae

Zoo Diet: Feline diet, dry cat food, apple, sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, meal worms

Predators: Eagles, vultures, jackals and cobras.

SSP: no

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Habitat/Range: Deserts of southern Africa

Characteristics: Meerkats at adulthood stand 12 in. high and weigh around 2 lbs. Their legs are short and their bodies are long and thin. Their tails are also long and thin and have a dark tip. The dark tip helps identify other gang members. Meerkats' fur ranges in color from silver to orange to brown. They have outstanding vision. Meerkats have a dark band around their eyes, which reduces any glare from the sun. This band acts like built-in sunglasses. Meerkats also have the ability to close their ears while burrowing, which keeps dirt out.

Behavior: Meerkats are a type of Mongoose. They live in communities called mobs or gangs, which can number up to 40. Members depend on one another for survival. Meerkats are extremely intelligent, sociable and communicative and possess a large vocabulary (verbal and non-verbal).

Reproduction: Meerkat gestation usually lasts about 77 days, resulting in a litter of 5 to 6 young. The babies, called pups, are born with little fur and eyes closed. After 2 weeks of nursing with the mother, or another milk producing female, the pups will venture outside. By the 6th week, the pups will begin foraging with elders and after about the 16th week they will be finding their own food.

Conservation: Listed as Least Concern, species is relatively widespread within southern Africa, there are no major threats.