On Wednesday, June 20, members of the media came by the Zoo to photograph the latest additions to the Zoo’s animal family—baby meerkats!
On May 9, 2012, three baby slender-tailed meerkat pups were born to mother, Serafina, and father, Frederick. While both are good parents, the three other adult females belonging to the meerkat group, Thandiwe, Nzuri and Victoria, are also participating in rearing the young. This is the first successful litter to be born to this particular group and the first surviving babies to be born at the Buffalo Zoo since 2000. The breeding was recommended as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which is designed to help a species maintain a healthy and stable population.
A naming contest will be announced in July. Meerkat fans will have the opportunity to suggest names and have a chance at winning a great prize!
Meerkats are found in southern Africa, including
Botswana, Zimbabwe and . This burrowing species is
a member of the mongoose family and inhabits savanna ecosystems. Meerkats live
in groups (or “mobs”) consisting of 5-30
In meerkat society, only the dominant male and female will produce successful litters. While infanticide is common within this species, meerkats are also known for cooperative behaviors. A subordinate female who is still lactating often acts as a wetnurse for the successful litter. Buffalo Zoo keepers suspect that Thandiwe lost her litter approximately one week prior to the arrival of Serafina’s litter since she often cares for the pups while Serafina is foraging for food. Both Frederick and Nzuri rotate the role of “sentinel,” stationing themselves at the highest point of the exhibit to watch for danger. Each individual plays an important role and without these cooperative behaviors, a group cannot be successful.
Buffalo Zoo visitors can observe the meerkats in their exhibit adjacent to the gorilla habitat.