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The Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)

The meerkat, also known as the suricat, is a mammal that looks similar to a chipmunk or prairie dog. Before being portrayed in the classic animated movie The Lion King as Timon, they have not been seen much in popular culture.

Meerkats are a type of mongoose but are in a unique genus all on their own. Mongeese (or mongooses, both are accurate), are known for their cunning and ability to prey on snakes and have a resistance to snake venom. Meerkats are primarily insectivores and are well known for hunting and eating scorpions; of which, they have developed an immunity to their stings.

Physical Description and Behavior

Meerkats have short legs and long bodies, being between 9 to 14 inches (24–35 cm) long, not including their tails which can be almost as long as the test of their body. They are also pretty slim, with a weight of only 1 to 2 pounds (0.62–1 kg). Their body has a banded pattern of cream and rusty brown, which their tails start off as a cream color before fading to black.

Fun Fact: Meerkats are actually very good architects. They have a home range that is on average 2 sq mi (5 sq km) but can be as big as 6 sq mi (15 sq km). Here, they set miles of burrows, with some being connected. Typical ones have the main opening that is about 16 feet (5 meters) wide, with many branches and about 15 openings. The largest one recorded had as many as 90 openings.

These tunnels are made to quickly hide from prey if it is spotted. Since meerkats live in a eusocial system, working together to build shelter, find food, and warn of predators is vitally important. One meerkat will always be on the lookout and will make barking noises to alert the others if they sense danger approaching.

They can detect food sources and predators with their large eyes which are about 20% of the size of their skull. They have binocular vision, which allows them to see in 3D.

Habitat and Location

These cute little furballs live from the bottom tip of South Africa to the borders of Angola and Zimbabwe. They prefer more rocky and arid locations, often in open fields.

They are considered to be of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List

To learn more about this mammal, check out the video below!

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