Commonly known as the 'Suricat', the meerkat - Suricata suricatta is a small carnivorous mammal native to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. They are a very social animal, living in large colonies, and a popular character choice for wildlife documentaries. To find out more, check out our following list of meerkat 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 20-30 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members.

4. In captivity, meerkats have an average lifespan of 12–14 years, but only 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. That being said, meerkats have sometimes been known to die of snakebite wounds in confrontations with puff adders and Cape cobras.

6. Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but will also eat other animals. Depending on availability, meerkats are known to prey on lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes, plants and fungi, and (when they can catch them) small birds.

7. Meerkats are burrowing animals, living in large underground networks which they leave only during the day. Their eyes have a clear protective membrane that shields them from dirt while digging. Their ears also close tightly to keep dirt out. Each network can have as many as 15 entrance and exit holes and can reach up to 6.5 feet deep. One or more meerkats stand sentry, to warn others of approaching dangers.

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8. Meerkats have a long slender body and stand at only 12 inches tall.  The coat is usually peppered gray, tan, or brown with silver, and they have short parallel stripes across their backs, extending from the base of the tail to the shoulders Dark patches around their eyes help to reduce the glare of the sun.

9. Meerkats are preyed on by martial eagles, tawny eagles and jackals. Young meerkats are so fearful of predatory birds that even airplanes will send them diving for cover.

10. The meerkat is a member of the mongoose family, but is the only species within the genus Suricata. It is also the only member of the mongoose family which doesn't have a bushy tail.

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