Meerkats: Heat Seekers

Posted at 3:51 pm December 26, 2008 by Laura Weiner

This time of the year is my favorite with the meerkats. Our group is getting along well and all of the kids are growing nicely (see Laura’s previous blog, Meerkats: Scent-Marking). The weather is cold and sometimes wet, which means the meerkats don’t do as much digging. Most of their day is spent basking in the sun and standing on their tippy toes trying to get their bellies warm.

They are always interested in me and what I am doing in the exhibit, be it shoveling dirt, cleaning up, or bringing food. At this time of year they are most interested in my lap. I will sit cross-legged in the cement moat and allow them to climb around on my legs. They recognize my lap as a warm place and soon enough almost all of them will be piled on. Unfortunately, Seronga, our subordinate female, is always left out. She is left to sentry duty while the others snuggle together. Even if she tried to come down, Ngami, our dominant female, would growl and vocalize at her to go away.

The group gets so comfortable on my lap that most of them will fall asleep. The guests enjoy watching the ball of meerkats, and it makes for a good photo. Some of the younger ones also enjoy biting at my fleece jacket and digging on my socks and pants. They are so curious that they are always investigating something.

So if you stop by Elephant Mesa at around noon on a cool day, take a look in the moat. You might see a mob of meerkats asleep in my lap!

I know some of you have been wondering about Kasane and her little friend, Leo. Kasane was our adult female who was always trying to be the dominant one. Since Ngami would not allow it, she would pick on Seronga. We moved her out of the exhibit earlier this year and placed her into a holding area. A couple of weeks ago she was moved next to our other meerkat group near the Kopje exhibit. There is a glass wall separating her and Leo from a group of eight meerkats. As you know, meerkats do not take well to anyone not in their mob. When the new group saw her, they came running toward the glass. Kasane was so scared she tried to climb the walls. I guess she isn’t so tough when eight meerkats are coming after her!

Once she figured out they could not get to her, she became brave again. She now spends a lot of time scratching at the glass to get them. But of course it is all just a show. It is great to see her in a dirt exhibit where she can dig, be in the sun, and hang around some other meerkats.

Laura Weiner is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

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12 Responses to “Meerkats: Heat Seekers”

  1. Pepsi Coke says:

    Sounds fun!

  2. Shirley Sykes says:

    Hi Laura. Darn it all — I was at the zoo this morning and walked through the Kopje exhibit. Eager to see the Singing Dog pups, I bypassed the Meerkat exhibit and missed seeing Kasane and Leo in their new digs. Will be sure to do it next time! Do you think there’s any chance at all that the mob will ultimately accept her? Wish I had seen you with a lap full of Meerkats! One quick question? When it rains heavily, as it has done here a couple of times lately, do their burrows get flooded? If so, how do they handle this problem? Many thanks!

  3. Susan (UK) says:

    Oh to be lucky enough to have a mob of meerkats on my lap – absolute heaven. I’m glad Kasane has settled in to her new home and that she feels safe now. Love them to bits.

  4. Cathy says:

    Can we see a photo of the meerkats in your lap? for those of us who live way across the country and can’t get to the San Diego zoo easily?

  5. Laura says:

    Hi Shirley,

    When it rains most of the water winds up in the moat. They spend alot of time in their heated nestbox and in the chute in the keeper area that also has a heat lamp. As for Kasane, I don’t think that group will ever accept her. They know she is not from their mob and they would all jump on her if they had the chance.

  6. Tim Stahl says:

    Cathy, I have seen laura with the meercats on her lap, and it is a crack up! I will send Laura a photo and see if she can post it for you. Thanks, Tim

    Moderator’s note: We may be able to set up a photo shoot of Laura with the meerkats.

  7. Elyse Wright says:

    Hi, Laura,

    Are there any breeding-age Meerkats in the Wild Animal Park mob? I’ve been going there every month for over 2 years and have never seen any little ones.

    Thanks for the great story.

    Moderator’s note: The Park says there are currently 5 males (all brothers) living in their exhibit. That explains the lack of little ones! However, these males will be moving to other zoos and a meerkat breeding group from the Zoo will be moving to the Park in the next few months.

  8. Pamela says:

    In Nov. I met my daughter at the zoo to have lunch and watch the Meerkats. They were almost unbelievably cute lined up on the hillside like a Meerkat totem pole. I will be back soon to see some more. They always make me smile. :)Pamela

  9. Susan Harrison, Santa Clara, CA says:

    Here is another episose of San Diego style Meerkat Manor! And the saga continues next week! Will Kasane finally get accepted by Leo????? 🙂 I just love them meerkats!

  10. Dave says:

    I would love to attend a photo opportunity, if on a weekend, to see the Meerkats on Laura’s lap. The Meerkats are one of my favorite animals to visit and to take pictrures of. Especially since they seem to love to pose for the camera.

  11. Linda says:

    The meerkats are the most intriguing little characters, my husband and I love watching them they’re just so adorable. They always make me smile & I have an urge to pet them as they seem like pussycats… although I know it’s not possible.

    They’re always so entertaining & so cute. Thank you for informing us how they’re protected from the rain & such, I’ve always wondered about it. Please post a photo of them in your lap sometime, are you sitting with them on the weekends??? Thank you & Happy New Year!!

  12. Melissa says:

    Count me in with those who would enjoy seeing the meerkat pile-on.

    It’s funny how animals have a way of finding any warm spot on which to lay.