Meerkats live in a matriarchal society (female in charge) with large groups of up to 40 individuals. Only the dominant pair have breeding rights.
Meerkats weigh just 25 grams at birth, and 600gms - 1kg when fully mature. Females are slightly larger than males. When standing upright, adult meerkats stand between 25 and 30cm tall.
Meerkats can live up to 8 years in the wild, and up to 13 years in captivity.
Meerkats currently face no major threats and their population trend is considered stable. Natural predators include eagles, falcons and large carnivores such as jackals.
Meerkats have developed a sentry system where the adults take turns to stand guard of the mob. The sentry climbs to a high point and stands as tall as possible on its hind legs to get the best view of the area. The sentry makes various different vocalisations to inform the mob if all is well, or if a threat is detected. They have different calls for different predators – ones on land, or ones coming from the sky. When the alarm call is raised, all the meerkats will flee to one of their many bolt holes to hide.
Meerkats are active during the day and use burrows to sleep in at night and shelter during the extreme heat of the day. Burrows have on average 15 entry and exit points and can be up to two metres deep. Underground, the tunnels have separate sleeping and toileting chambers.
At Rockhampton Zoo, you will get to see six meerkats who all live together. The mob, or gang, is made up of Maputo, the father, and five of his sons, Lwazi, Moagi, Savuti, Ntsumi and Nzima.
Maputo and his sons came to Rockhampton Zoo in September 2021 from Taronga Zoo, NSW.
|Distribution and habitat
Deserts and grasslands of south western Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Angola.
* Classified by IUCN
Mainly insects but will also eat spiders, snails, small rodents, eggs, lizards and scorpions. Meerkats can kill and eat venomous snakes.
Would you like to meet our meerkats? Find out about Meerkat Encounters here.