The polar bear is the world’s largest carnivore. The adult weighs between 300kg – 600kg and the female weighs approximately half the size.
The name ‘meerkat’ means ‘lake cat’ in Dutch, however the meerkat is not a cat, nor is it found by lakes. It is believed that it has become confused with a different animal at some point – probably the prairie dog as the word meerkat in Afrikaans means ‘ground squirrel’.
The latin name for the meerkat is suricata suricatta.
The meerkat is actually a mongoose, not a cat.
Meerkats are incredibly socially adept and have a highly evolved social structure.
Meerkats will hunt for food in groups with some mob members acting as a sentry and keeping watch from an elevated position and alerting the rest of the mob at the first sign of predators.
Meerkats spend a lot of time standing up on their back legs.
Meerkat populations can be severely affected by a reduction in rainfall in the already dry and arid areas in which they live.
There are 3 sub-species of meerkat – they are: suricata suricatta siricata, suricata suricatta majoriae and suricata suricatta iona.
In the wild, meerkats eat pretty much anything – insects, reptiles, scorpions, plants, eggs, birds, worms and more!
Meerkat groups are known as a mob or a gang.
Meerkats have been observed wrestling and racing each other for fun!
Meerkats grow to around 12″ (30cm) tall.
A fully grown meerkat weighs around 1 kilo (2lbs).
Meerkats are fortunate from a conservation perspective in that they are present in many well-managed and well-protected areas. Also due to their short gestation period of only 11 weeks, their population can recover quickly from a reduction in numbers.
The meerkat is native to southern Africa and can be found in countries such as Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho.
Meerkats live underground in burrows which they dig using their claws.
Meerkats breed annually, having litters of between 1 and 5 pups – 3 being most common.
Meerkat pups don’t leave the burrow for the first 2-3 weeks of their life and are born with their eyes and ears closed. Their eyes open after 10-14 days, their ears a day or two later.
Meerkats are immune to most types of venom and as a result can hunt scorpions and even snakes for food.
The meerkat has dark patches around the eyes which aid in seeing in the constant bright desert sunshine.
Meerkats often share their burrows with other animals that don’t compete for the same food resources.
In some areas of Africa the meerkat is known as the ‘sun angel’ and is believed to protect cattle and people from the ‘moon devil’ or werewolf.
Meerkats often spend time on their backs lying in the sunshine to keep warm, absorbing heat through their bellies.