Most people will agree that meerkats are some of the cutest animals you’ll ever find, and Yourbotswana firmly agrees. Just last year, an advert starring a Russian meerkat called Aleksandr Orlov and his furry friends was voted the most memorable in a British TV commercial top 10 list. When the commercial first burst onto TV screen across the UK in 2009, the brown furry animals stole the hearts of British audiences and saw Aleksandr Orlov’s favourite catchphrase ‘Simples’ added to the Collins English Dictionary in 2010.
The business tycoon who owns the insurance website that ran the popular adverts, Compare the Market has reportedly raked in £220million following the successful advertising campaign featuring Aleksandr the meerkat. The hugely popular advertising campaign featuring the loveable creatures debuted in 2009 and continued to delight people up and down the UK for several years thereafter.
Meerkats are the brown furry animals found in the burrows of the African desert. Although they belong to the same family as the mongoose, they are different creatures. Unlike mongooses, meerkats love to live in a group and can have as many as 30 members in the group. A group of meerkats is known as mob or gang, which consists of five to thirty members, thus making them highly social creatures.
In Botswana, meerkats can be found in the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans areas, with Camp Kalahari (Kalahari Desert) and Jack’s Camp and San Camp (Makgadikgadi Pans) being famed for sightings of the furry little creatures.
Depending on the region, the basic colours of meerkats can vary from grey to tan to a silver tint. They also have dark brown or black horizontal stripes on their back with a reddish undercoat. Interestingly, the breeding is done by the alpha male and their female counterparts, while the subordinates guard the children. These guards protect the whole gang when others are sleeping and eating.
15 Cool Facts About Meerkats
#1. Meerkats are the only species of the Genus Suricata family. You can’t make a pet of them as they are very possessive and will mark their owner with urine or bite any stranger.
#2. They share their burrows with yellow mongoose, ground squirrels, and sometimes with snakes. Meerkats share burrows with yellow mongooses and ground squirrels and in some instances, snakes. Their multi-leveled burrows can have several chambers and as many as 15 entrances and exits. During daytime, meerkats reach the highest level to stretch out in the sun while at night, they move deeper into their burrows to shield themselves.
#3. Their belly acts like a solar panel that absorbs heat and keeps them warm.
#4. They are immune to poison from snakes and scorpions. Consumption of poisonous creatures cannot harm their body and digestive system, as millions of years of development has made them immune to poison. They are known for their bold and flamboyant diet and can eat venomous creepy crawlies ranging from cobras to scorpions.
#5. The tail of a meerkat can be seven to ten inches long, which is usually yellow in colour with a black tip. Unlike the mongoose tail which is bushy, the meerkat’s is rather thin and slim. When excited, they hold their tails up high and vertical.
#6. Meerkats become fully grown within six months of their birth. Every meerkat has a crucial duty to perform. Some take care of the pups, some collect food, and others keep danger at bay.
#7. If any subordinate gives birth to a pup in secret, the pup is killed there and then and the offending couple may be killed or kicked out of the community. Often these couples form another group, with the process starting again with another alpha male and its female counterpart. They have the incredible intuition of knowing when one has had pups in secret.
#8. Meerkats have very strong sense of smell, vision, and hearing to identify predators. Alarm calls made by any of the meerkats warn others about would-be enemies. They can recognise as many as 10 calls and can even differentiate between the different calls made for preys and predators.
The eyes of meerkats are surrounded by inbuilt sunglasses that deflect rays of scorching sun from their eyes. They suffer from poor vision at short range although they have excellent long-range eyesight. The crescent shape of their ears helps close their ears while digging burrows, preventing sand from getting in their ears.
#9. Their very long, non-retractable and shovel shaped claws help in excavating burrows and overturning rocks to take out insects. They can dig up to several hundred times more than their body weight every single day.
#10. Their burrows are as deep as 10 feet and they can dig even deeper to distract their attackers.
#11. Meerkats can live up to about 10 to 14 years or more.
#12. These animals exhibit altruistic behaviour when living in colonies or groups of about 25. One of the meerkats from the colony stands guard as a designated sentry while the others forage. When a colony gets overcrowded the meerkats typically disperse and form smaller groups to ensure that there’s enough food to go around.
#13. A meerkat will at some point kill its subordinates in order to improve the position of their own offspring within the community. On occasion, they will also take part in wrestling matches and other social activities.
#14. A male meerkat can weigh up to 731gm. while a female typically weighs 720gm.
#15. They can run at a speed of up to 37 miles per hour.
Have you ever seen meerkats? Where did you see them? Please share your experience with YourBotswana.
Reference: 10-facts-about.com, interestingfunfacts.com
Featured image by Charles J. Sharp,