- Common Name
- slender-tailed meercat, suricate
- Genus Species
- Suricata (South African Dutch meaning lake cat) suricatta
- The meercat has short legs with long, thin bodies, and long, slender tails with a dark tip. The fur is short and tan to grayish usually with darker gray bars. The markings on their backs are unique, no two alike. Males and females look similar. All have dark brown or black bands around their eyes. Their ears are tipped with dark brown or black. Their faces and necks are lighter. They have four digits on each foot with very sharp non-retractable curved claws.
- Stand 30 cm (12 in.) high on average
- Approximately 0.91 kg (2 lbs.)
- Includes worms, insects, small rodents, lizards, snakes, scorpions, bird eggs, fruits, and ant larvae
- 6 to 12 weeks; 2 to 3 young
- Sexual Maturity
- About 10 months
- Life Span
- About 10 years wild, 15 years captivity
- Southern Africa, Kalahari Desert
- Inhabits broad sandy plains covered with grasses and thorn scrub; live in underground burrows
- Global: Unknown
- IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed
- Meerkats live in a dominant alpha male and female group or communities of 5 to 15. All group members have a designated role such as babysitters and sentries. They take turns or shifts performing each role.
- In the event of a predator, they will act as a group and fight to protect each other.
- A low metabolic rate allows them to survive with less food and water. Meerkats have long curved claws for digging, closed ears to keep out dirt when burrowing, and a specialized coat that keeps them warm when temperatures are cool and cool when temperatures are high.
- Meerkats have outstanding vision; dark rings around their eyes help reduce glare from the sun. A nictitating membrane on their eye acts like a windshield wiper to remove sand from their eyes when they blink.
- They stand on their back legs and balance themselves with their tails, allowing them to see well.
- They communicate with sound, scent, and body language. There are over 20 different sounds that have been recorded, and all have different meanings.
- Their underground burrows may have 20 different entrances and exits.
- They are territorial and maintain an area of about 1 to 3 miles (1.6 to 4.8 km)
- Beta females sometimes become impregnated by males of other groups. They will try to sneak their pups into the alpha females litter. If the alpha female notices, she will kill and eat the pups of the beta female.
Ecology and Conservation
Meercats are protected in the Kalahari National Park.
Meerkats are very important in the food chain, cleaning up small insects, rodents, and lizards. This relative of the mongoose is prey for birds of prey, jackals, wild cats, cobras.
Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia, Mammals. McGraw-Hill Publishing, Co. New York.