The meerkat is a small burrowing mammal that belonging to the mongoose family.
Meerkats live in southern part of Africa which is dominated by the Kalahari desert. the Kalahari spreads over the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
It is located across the Southern part of Africa covering over one million square miles - that is 10 times the size of Great Britain!
This land is covered by a porous or soft sand that in many places is found to be bright orange in colour. Meerkats like the soft sand when digging for food as it reduces the amount of energy required to live in this harsh environment. However, they prefer compact sand to build their burrows with, which would collapse in softer sands.
How do Meerkats eat?
Meerkats always forage for their food in groups but catch and eat their food alone as their diet usually consist of small portions. As they search for their food, they spread apart from one another on the desert floor. This distance between foraging Meerkats averages from 6 feet to 45 feet, but can extend to 150 feet. The distance often depends on the availability of food.
Meerkats frequently communicate with each other while they are looking for food in order to warn of possible dangers in the area or hear a distress call if one gets lost. Usually there is a Meerkat acting as a sentry watching for danger as the others look for food. This is usually the one that is the best fed at the time, there is no evidence that either sex has a predominance for sentry duty. If trouble arises, an alarm is sounded by the sentry and the gang will band together in a mob to assess what the danger is, and take appropriate defence actions.
Current studies show that the pup that gives the loudest begging call gets the most food from the adults. Most of the Meerkats food is found underground and their specially adapted bodies are perfect for this.
Their front claws are curved and act as shovels. They often have to dig their own body weight in dirt just to get a small insect. Foraging for a Meerkat means digging here and there and occasionally finding a tasty morsel on the surface then moving forward with the gang on the endless search for food.
What do Meerkats eat?
Meerkats also love to eat poisonous scorpions which are plentiful. They do this by quickly biting off their stingers and then consuming the rest. A Meerkat will often drag any poisonous prey such as a scorpion or millipede across the sand before eating it. They do this to remove the chemical defences of their soon to be meal.
They will make use of a water source if one is nearby, but Meerkats have developed the ability to get all their liquid requirements from their diet. In the summer, the Meerkats must work harder to get their food because the insects have burrowed deeper in the sand in order to be closer to moisture. The rain brings the insects back to the surface, which means a feast for the Meerkats.
Meer - facts!
1. According to African popular belief, the meerkat is also known as the sun angel, as it protects villages from the moon devil or the werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.
2. The word 'meerkat' is Dutch for 'lake cat', but the meerkat is not in the cat family, and neither are they attracted to lakes.
3. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members.
4. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.
5. Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions, unlike humans.
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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerkat and http://www.meerkats.net/info.htm
Images care of http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/meerkat/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerkat_Manor and http://www.wunderground.com/blog/mowi/comment.html?entrynum=2 and http://www.123rf.com/photo_14538798_meerkats-digging-in-the-sand.html and http://meerkats.wikia.com/wiki/File:Meerkat_eating_a_millipede.jpg