About 3 weeks ago I did my usual afternoon routine to the meerkat family to go and wait for them to return home from their daily hunting exercise. As I drove down from the hill towards their burrows I saw a meerkat already home, sitting upright observing the area. For me it was a surprise to see a meerkat that early home on a clear sunny day. So I stopped the jeep and got out to have a closer look with the binoculars, scanning the area trying to spot the rest of the family, but still it was only the one meerkat that I could see from that distance, a bit strange as I said. Still I thought the rest of the family must be around or just sitting in the shade of the bush that is just next to the burrows. After a few minutes scanning the area with the binoculars and with no luck spotting the rest of the family I decided to walk a bit closer to get a better view of the burrow system.
About 10 – 15 meters from the burrows I still couldn’t see more than one meerkat outside, I took the binoculars to try dentifying the meerkat, and it was Maggi! (one of the females in the family). This could only mean one thing, BABIES! For the last couple of weeks we were waiting for this and finally we’ve got the sign that there might be new born babies.
This sign didn’t mean that we will see the baby meerkats immediately because the alpha female is in gestation for about 11weeks, then when the babies are born they will stay underground for 21-30 days before they emerge from the burrows, during this period there will be a female staying behind with the little ones during day time, while the rest of the family go out for their daily routine. (Maggie sitting alone at the burrows). Meerkats are also one of few mammals that can have more than one litter per year, and up to 3-4 offspring per litter (according to research done in our area).
For almost 3 weeks we saw this behavior during our meerkt safaris – family go do their usual daily routine while one of the females stayed behind at the burrows. There were also some days that more than one female stayed behind the burrows and the rest went out. Some mornings the meerkats would even try to divert the attention from the babies by shifting their sunbathing position a few meters from the babies’ location and then you will see one of the adults putting on a show to draw all of the attention towards him.
So on Friday the 12th September 2014 we did our usual morning meerkat safari here on Buffelsdrift Game Lodge when Hanro, one of our meerkat rangers, led the meerkat safari for the morning. After a few minutes I received a radio call from Hanro, telling me that the first baby is out of the burrow. At this point of time we only counted 3 new youngsters and they are still unnamed so in the next week or two we will decide on suitable names for our new born baby meerkats. Exciting times indeed!
Introducing the Ranger: Armando Crafford
According to Armando, working an early shift as a guide at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is probably one of the biggest privileges. Especially seeing and hearing all fauna and flora “waking up” early in the morning. To see excitement over different animals and plants and people asking questions that we generally think is common sense, makes his work as a guide worth while. Armando is our head meerkat ranger and eager as always to share his knowledge.