Meerkat

Standing tall and keeping watch

What
The meerkat or suricate is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. The meerkat (suricata suricatta) inhabits parts of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose). Meerkat is an English loan word from Afrikaans.

About
The meerkat's weight averages approximately 731 gm for males and 720 gm for females. Its long and slender body and limbs give it a body length of 25 to 35 cm (10 to 14 inches) and an added tail length of 17 to 25 cm.

The meerkat uses its long and thin tail to balance when standing vertical. Its face tapers, coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The eyes always have black patches surrounding them which help deflect the sun's glare. The meerkat has small, black, crescent-shaped ears that have the ability to close when digging to prevent sand from entering.

Like felines, meerkats have binocular vision, a large peripheral range, depth perception, and eyes that sit on the front of their faces. The alpha male and female of the Meerkat gang do most of the breeding.

Why
Meerkats are 'snack size' for a number of animals, so one always stands guard while the others forage or nap. Females are usually philopatric and babysit the young in the group.

Meerkats are the first non-human mammal species seen actively teaching their young, rather than relying on observation alone.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
No species of mongoose is known to be threatened or endangered. However, meerkats are one of the most strictly regulated animals in the world. They are illegal to own without the proper licenses and permits. It is listed as "lower risk" in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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