Sibling rivalry (32)
|Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) |
They inhabit portions of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, extending from the south west arid biotic zone and eastward into neighboring southern savanna and grassland areas. These areas include the majority of the southern tip of Africa up to about 17 degrees south latitude.
Meerkats inhabit the most open and arid country of any mongoose species. They are found in areas of savannah and open plains and their distribution depends on soil type, with firm to hard soils being common living grounds.
Females typically breed at about 24 months of age. The breeding season is extended in meerkats when conditions are favorable. In addition, females exhibit no synchrony of estrous, mating, or birth. Therefore, the pack can produce young throughout the year. In the wild, however, births occur most often during the rainy, warmer part of the year from August through March. Breeding may stop during times of drought.
Gestation has been reported to be approximately 11 weeks. In captivity, Meerkats have been known to give birth to 11 litters in 31 months. In the wild, the average litter size is 3 offspring and females can have up to 3 litters per year.
Young are altricial, with ears and eyes closed. They are unable to urinate or defecate without stimulation from their mother. Ears open at about 10 days of age, and eyes at 10-14 days. Young are weaned between 49 and 63 days of age. Meerkats become sexually mature around 1 year of age.
As in all mammals, the mother provides the offspring with milk. Young mothers carry their young by picking them up any which-way, whereas older, experienced mothers always carry young by the nape of the neck. The father meerkat may take an active role in parental care by guarding the young. Because of the highly social nature of meerkats, non-breeding individuals are often part of the pack. These non-breeders act as helpers, guarding and provisioning the young.
Although they live right across the street from my house, I chose to post the pictures from the Zoo so that you can see the little ones. In the wild the caretakers are overly protective and scurry at the slightest movement.