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Not all of Africa’s iconic mammals are larger than life! The tiny meerkat is beloved of many, packing a whole lot of personality into one tiny package. Despite their dainty appearance, the meerkat can actually be a ferocious little creature- so today Buffelsdrift Game Lodge is taking a closer peek into their fascinating world.
While Timon and Pumba may have rapped their way into your hearts as a child, meerkats are a lot more complex than the power-singing duo (and don’t actually hang around warthogs, either). They live a communal life and have fiercely strong family bonds. You’ll typically see groups of 20-50 meerkats living together, and it’s common for them to all be related. The family group- known rather sinisterly as ‘mobs’, ‘gangs’ or ‘clans’, are led by an alpha pair, and the female typically rules all.
You’d think their small size (and adorable appearance) would make them vulnerable in the wild, but they’ve evolved to make sure no one can take advantage of them. They communicate through a sophisticated range of chattering and chirping, and well over 30 different types of sound have been identified already. There’s even ‘accents’ in each family! Sentries stand guard over the burrow while the mob hunts, and they will bark or whistle for backup if danger is sensed.
In the presence of a threat, the meerkat feels no fear. This is a species, after all, that makes scorpions and other insects’ part of its regular diet! With a natural tolerance to scorpion venom (and even some snake venom), they have reason to be a little confident. If a snake or larger foe approaches their home, the gang will gather together, stiffen their tails and puff their coats, and advance on the invader in a menacing manner. This tricks the unwelcome guest into thinking a larger predator is about to attack, causing them to flee.
Family is, after all, everything to the meerkat. This teamwork affects all aspects of their life, from foraging to scaring off predators. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that teamwork goes into raising the next generation too. A communal ‘babysitter’ will look after the young pups while others hunt, and adults will teach all young to hunt safely. There is a hint of the Mafioso to these family bonds, however, and vicious ‘gang wars’ between family groups are not unknown.
Despite their generally cooperative nature, the dominant female meerkat is undoubtedly the queen of her roost, and can be pretty aggressive to subordinate females. There’s even been serious scientific studies into the stress levels faced by the subordinate females in the group!The fascinating meerkat isn’t just a cute face, but a complex and ferocious little king of the Karoo Game Lodge scene. Why not come and experience these fascinating little mammals for yourself, and join us in our luxury tented camps at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge?