Meerkats

Watch the Meerkats dig through their underground burrows and keep lookout at Edge of Africa.

Meerkats live in the wild in one of the hottest and driest deserts in the world, the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. Their habitat consists of underground burrows on broad sandy plains covered with grasses and thorn scrub. These masked wonders live in dominant male and female communities of 5-15 individuals. Members are assigned specific roles in the group such as babysitters and guards. Although meerkats weigh in at less than two pounds and stand only a foot in height, they can shovel dirt weighing several hundred times their body weight. They use their strength to dig complex underground burrows, which can be up to 10 feet deep with winding, interconnected tunnels, and it may have 20 different entrances and exits.

To get an up-close look at Busch Gardens’ masked wonders, otherwise known as meerkats, stop by Edge of Africa® near Crown Colony®.

A Closer Look

Meerkats have remarkable vision. The dark fur rings around meerkats’ eyes act as sunglasses, deflecting the rays of the sun, reducing glare, therefore, allowing them to see vast distances across the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa where they live in the wild. Meerkats have another eye feature called a nictitating membrane, which works like a “windshield wiper” removing sand from their eyes when they blink. Meerkats are excellent communicators. They use sound, scent, and body language to communicate with one another. Over 20 different sounds have been recorded from meerkats, all of which have different meanings.

Ask an Educator

Q: What do meerkats eat?

BG: Meerkats are omnivores meaning they eat both meat and plants. They feed on worms, insects, small rodents, lizards, snakes, scorpions, bird eggs, fruit, leaves and roots.

Q: Where do meerkats get water from since water is not common in the desert dwellings where they live in the wild?

BG: Although meerkats can survive with less food and water due to their low metabolic rate, they do obtain all the water they need to survive from the moist vegetation consumed in their diet such as roots, tubers, and fruits.

Q: What body part does a meerkat use to balance itself?

BG: Meerkats use their tails to balance themselves while standing on their back legs. This allows them to see well across the desert.

Q: What is special about the markings on a meerkat’s back?

BG: The fur markings on their back are unique to each individual meerkat; no meerkats’ markings are alike.

Q: What do meerkats do in the event of a predator?

BG: Members of a meerkat community will team up and fight to protect each other in the event of a predator.