Written By: Madison Underwood, Animal Care Professional
Meerkat families, also known as mobs, have a fascinating family dynamic. Meerkats are one of the few mammal species that take on specific roles to ensure the well-being of their family. Meerkat society is comprised of a hierarchy with females being at the top. Alpha females are the only member of the mob that may become pregnant. Thus, she is the heart and soul of the family. Below the alpha female is her mate, the alpha male, and the rest of the family act as betas. Furthermore, several meerkat families may live together in a large community, which then is called a manor.
Each meerkat plays a specific role in ensuring the survival of their family. While some members act as hunters and gathers to bring back food, others act as lookouts. These lookouts, or sentries, will watch the skies for birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles, that could steal them from the ground. While these few lookouts guard the group, others busy themselves foraging for food. Meerkat’s diet consists of insects, lizards, small rodents and various fruits. The last of the meerkat family act as burrowers. Meerkats utilize an extensive tunnel system to make up their home, with many of the tunnels being many feet underground to escape the heat.
Here at ZooTampa, we are home to four male meerkats: Peabody, Ranger, Sam and Ralphy! Our family dynamic is quite unique in that we do not have an alpha female. However, our meerkats do not seem to be affected as they still display all of the characteristics of a normal meerkat family. They can be seen foraging for their favorite waxworms, digging new tunnels to expand their home or lounging in the sun. Guests will often times comment on the lookout, as our meerkats love to stand on logs to get a better look at the sky!
You can find our meerkat family in the Africa realm of the Zoo. It’s easy for your family to come back again and again with a Family Plus Membership – 2 adults, all dependent children + 1 free guest!