The meerkat (Suricata suricatta), is a small burrowing mammal belonging
to the mongoose family. They are desert animals from the Kalahari Desert,
Namib Desert and Angola. They are highly sociable animals, living in clans of
20 or more individuals.
In the wild their diet is mainly made up of insects, but they also eat lizards,
snakes, small birds, scorpions, spiders, plants and eggs. Here at Hartpury, our
meerkats have a balanced daily diet of meat and fruit.
Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong
venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert.
At the end of each of their fingers is a very strong claw for digging for bugs
and excavating burrows.
Meerkats store no excess body fat so have to forage for food daily. They take
it in turns to stand on “sentry duty” for about an hour at a time to watch
for predators while the others search for food. The meerkat standing guard
makes peeping sounds when all is well, and barks or whistles if it spots danger.
Meerkats have a very sophisticated range of calls for different threats.
Meerkats can live 12–14 years in captivity.
Meerkats bring great luck and protection
According to African popular belief the meerkat is also known as the sun
angel, as it protects villages from werewolves which may attack stray cattle or
In October 2010, Aleksandr the meerkat’s catchphrase ‘Simples’ gained an
entry in the Collins English Dictionary.