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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Suricate / Meerkat

Afrikaans name: Meerkat

Ain't I cute? A Meerkat keeping a look-out

Portrait of a Suricate / Meerkat

Photo © Steven Herbert

Suricata suricatta

Interesting facts about Meerkats

The proper English name for the Meerkat is the Suricate but, in South Africa, I don't know of anyone who uses that name…

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family. They occur in the drier areas of South Africa.

Meerkats are very social creatures and live in groups of up to 50 individuals, with the average being around 20. These groups are sometimes referred to as clans, mobs or gangs.

The Meerkat weighs less than one kilogram and has a body length of about 30 cm (excluding the tail).

They have long claws which are used for digging burrows as well as for digging for food. Meerkats mainly eat insects but will take smaller reptiles, eggs, spiders, scorpions and some plants.

Meerkats can produce 5 young in a litter and may have up to 4 litters in a year. The dominant male and female in a clan may kill the young from other females.

A group of Meerkats make a system of underground burrows for security and for sleeping. They are well-known for having some individuals act as lookouts who warn the rest of the group of approaching danger. The animals then scurry to safety in their burrow.

A Meerkat stretching

Photo © Steven Herbert

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References and further reading

African Wildlife - A photographic safari - Author: Nigel and Wendy Dennis - Year Published: 1999 - Page: 106

An Introduction to the Larger Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Joanna Dalton - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 92

Chris and Tilde Stuart's Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Year Published: 1988 - Page: 142

Country Life - Issue 245 - Author: - Year Published: 2016 - Page: 20

Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind - Author: B. Hilton-Barber & Prof. L. R. Berger - Year Published: 2004 - Page: 154

Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Year Published: 1997 - Page: 250

Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Year Published: 2001 - Page: 142

Land Mammals of Southern Africa - A field guide - Author: Reay HN Smithers - Year Published: 1986 - Page: 120

Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Burger Cillier - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 31

Mammals of the Kruger and other National Parks - Author: The National Parks Board - Year Published: 1980 - Page: 64

Questions and Answers - Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Year Published: 1990 - Page: 12

Questions and Answers - Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Year Published: 1990 - Page: 16

Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of Southern Africa - 2nd edi - Author: Editor - Alan Duggan - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 418

Sasol First Field Guide to Animal Tracks of Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Year Published: 2003 - Page: 28

Signs of the Wild - 3rd Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Year Published: 1986 - Page: 77

Signs of the Wild - 5th Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Year Published: 1996 - Page: 68

Wild Issue 21 - Author: - Year Published: 2012 - Page: 76

Wild Issue 24 - Author: - Year Published: 2013 - Page: 74

Wild Issue 40 - Author: - Year Published: 2017 - Page: 40

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 206

List of South African Mammals

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