The Slender-Tailed Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a small mammal, native to the deserts of southern Africa, related to the mongoose family. It is a diurnal herpestid.
It has a long body up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) long with a tail of about 25 centimetres (10 inches). Its face is long and it narrows at the chin. Its eyes have black patches around them. Their fur is grey or brown with streaks of silver.
They have four toes. They have long claws for digging rapidly and for climbing trees. They dig for food, such as lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, centipedes, and millipedes. While they look for food, there are meerkats on guard duty, called sentries, that look out for danger.
Their predators are eagles and jackals.
Slender-Tailed Meerkats are social animals and live in groups, called colonies, of about 20 individuals. It is a matriarchal group, which means that the head of the group is female.
They live in burrows with many entrances (for quick entry and exit).
Female meerkats have 1-4 babies in each litter, called pups. They are iteroparous, which means that they can have babies any time of the year. Pups are altricial (born blind and hairless). They open their eyes after 10-14 days, and leave the burrow after a month. They feed on their mothers’ milk for 49-63 days. Meerkats take turns to babysit the young pups.
In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM