Zoology

Group Behavior of the Meerkat



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"Group Behavior of the Meerkat"
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Imagine spending a day in the life of one of the most social animals, the meerkat. Imagine being a meerkat, spending life in the dry open plains, on the unforgiving stony ground of the south African meerkat world. You will never walk alone. The force of the group is with you.

Imagine waking from your burrow, the mob or gang (as the group of 30 meerkats are called) will be right there. As you sunbathe in the morning sunlight, someone will attend to your grooming. We must keep that lovely cute face free of nits and keep that wonderful band across the eyes clean and shiny! Of course, we will attend to the long tail. It does get dragged around in the dirt a bit when you stand tall on two legs. If it is too hot in the midday sun, too cold, too wet or too windy, we will cool and rest for awhile or snuggle with you throughout the day in the burrow.

Imagine you are a mother with a young pup, there is always someone to do the day's hunt, while you attend to child care. There is always plenty of food to find in the rainy season, you have chosen well to have your litter now), so do not worry about staying home. But if you choose to hunt yourself, there are plenty of males and females staying too who can look after your baby for you.

Imagine that a day of hunting is your role on the schedule. You will be protected from stray jackals, eagles or falcons. The guard will announce the beginning of his/her watch with a low peeping. He/she will be clearly visible on a termite mound, high rock or bush. Don't forget there are different warning, barking sounds for ground danger and air danger. Keep alert!

Just remember what to do if trouble approaches. There is one of many bolt holes nearby, with special tunnels to keep us all together. But if you can't reach the hole swiftly, dig furiously. We will dig too and create a mini dust storm so the enemy is confused. Stay with us if we have to advance to the next stage of all out attack. Stretch your legs out as far as possible, arch the back, keep the tail upright and don't forget to get the hair on bristle alert. Leap with the mob and keep the growl savage. Above all, never give up! If you must take the last resort, hurl yourself on your back, claws out and be prepared to bite hard.

Don't forget, next week we must move the gang to a different burrow. All mothers will have help carrying pups to their new home by the scruff of the neck. The pups will just think it is all a game. At this stage, life is just a game to them. Don't worry about the change! They are just on 4 weeks old, so the trip won't hurt them. The pups will continue playing and peeping in their new home. Just as long as mother still brings home lizards and insects and odd scorpions, life is good. They will be happy and fall asleep purring as usual.
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The female society of meerkats is a matriarchal one. In fact, the females are a little taller than the males. However, perhaps the females do not have the final say in this co-operative world. It is known that sometimes the males sneak off at night to enjoy the bliss of other beds. Or, is this too, all part of the organized schedule? It is also known that perhaps the females are related to the males in the group. Maybe, to keep the line "pure", the male meerkats have a duty to wander afield. Maybe we are reading too much into the marvel of this meerkat group behaviour.

Nevertheless, the meerkats must be among the most social of animals. They work and play together. They help each other. The meerkats even befriend humans, if they treat them nice.

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More about this author: Gemma Wiseman

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