Cute as can be
From South African meerkat to the North American raccoon: Enjoy watching the exciting life of the small mammals at Cologne Zoo.
Meerkats live in well organised communities with a clear division of labour. Whether as sentry, babysitter, builder or hunter: With around 500 square metres of space, the Cologne meerkat enclosure offers these lively little mammals ample opportunities for digging, keeping a lookout and playing.
Meerkats live in large groups of up to 40 animals. They have a pronounced social behaviour. They often seek out physical contact, either hugging or simply sitting close to each other. Meerkats are predators, and thus feed off other animals. Due to their small size, they are themselves a sought-after prey for other predators, such as eagles or snakes. Therefore, meerkats need to be particularly alert. However, staying alert prevents them from looking for food, so they always have a sentry on duty who is not involved in the food hunt. He is regularly relieved, so that no meerkat in the group has to go hungry.
They are among the most sociable mammals on earth. The dominant female determines where the group lives and only this female has babies. The father is most likely to be the alpha male. The female gives birth to her babies in the underground den. Meerkat babies are helpless at birth, as they are born naked and blind and stay in the den for the first few weeks. During this period, the meerkat group does not venture as far afield as usual in their search for food. The mother also goes hunting with the group, because she needs plenty of nutrition so that she has enough milk for her babies. She comes back to feed them. Other females from the group also support the mother with raising the young. An adult meerkat always remains with the little ones to defend them against predators. Being a babysitter for young meerkats is hard work, because the bigger they get, the harder it becomes to keep them in the den.
System: Predators, mongoose family
Gestation: 60 days:
Maximum age: 9 years
Body weight: 620 - 970 g
Population in the wild: not threatened
Population in European Zoos: approx. 800
Food: Insects, small vertebrates, scorpions