Werribee Open Range Zoo

Meerkat

These animals love to dig and humans love to watch them! 

Meerkats are not a threatened species and it is unknown whether wild populations are increasing or decreasing.

Meeting the meerkats at Werribee Open Range Zoo is an important way to connect with the animals of Africa, and to learn about the Zoo’s conservation programs. 

There are three subspecies of meerkat: red, grey and slender-tailed, the subspecies at Zoos Victoria. 

Meerkats live in southern Africa, which is dominated by the Kalahari Desert. Countries where they are found include Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

They are small: 26–28cm (with a 22cm tail). 

Finding safety in numbers, meerkats live in groups of 10–30, with a female in charge of each smaller family unit. Meerkats spend most of the day foraging for food. A lookout meerkat stands on a high viewpoint until relieved by another meerkat. Danger can come from threats such as jackals, vultures, snakes, servals or hawks. Meerkats have a wide range of vocalisations, and warning calls are specific to each form of danger. The pack may band together to threaten a predator or rival pack with much hissing and jumping.

Meerkats are omnivorous, and their diet includes pupae and larvae of moths, butterflies, beetles and flies; termites; crickets; spiders; scorpions; and other invertebrates that they excavate. They also eat lizards, small snakes, birds, eggs and mice. In dry areas they get moisture by chewing local melons, roots and tubers.

Meerkats may be seen in their special housing at the Bistro; there is also a meerkat display near Lions on the Edge. 

Akili

Born 2009

Akili is the matriarch and dominant female of the group. While she is an attentive and caring mother, she is also an independent and strong leader. Akili’s independence and leadership skills provide a great role model for the younger Meerkats of the group to learn from.

Andazi

Born 2013

The patriarch and dominant male of the group, Andazi is highly vigilant and keeps a watchful eye over his family group. He is very attentive towards Akili, and is often found snuggled up next to her while she has an afternoon nap.

Piekel

Born 2015

The eldest born son of the family group, Piekel is shy, quiet and cautious. Piekel spends a lot of time watching and observing a situation, especially when it comes to new enrichment games, before deciding to get involved and take part in the fun.  

Aya

Born 2015

Aya is the only daughter in this family group. She is sweet, nurturing and caring towards her siblings, and has grown in confidence with her important role as ‘big sister’ of the group. 

Upepo

Born 2015

Once a cheeky, mischievous young pup, Upepo has matured into a gentle, inquisitive Meerkat who loves to explore and play with all sorts of new and exciting enrichment.

Nzuri

Born 2015

Nzuri is great mates with his brother, Upepo, and they are never too far away from each other. The two brothers are as curious as one another and love to stick together as they explore, climb, forage and play.

Meerkat pups learning to be Meerkats web620

Meerkat pups born at Werribee Open Range Zoo

There are some new faces in the Meerkat mob at Werribee Open Range Zoo, with two Meerkat pups born to experienced mum, Akili on Thursday 14 January.

17 February 2016
New meerkat pups

New Meerkat Pups at Werribee Open Range Zoo

Werribee Open Range Zoo has welcomed some new arrivals to the Meerkat family, with mum Akili giving birth to two Meerkat pups on Thursday 20 August.

At five weeks of age the pups are now becoming more mobile and are starting to emerge from the burrow.

28 September 2015
Slumber Safari - couple

Slumber Safari

Enjoy an overnight experience at the Zoo in our luxury safari camp. Your stay includes amazing close-up animal encounters, drinks and dips at sunset, a sumptuous dinner, unique night-time activities and breakfast overlooking Australian Journey. 

Mini Keepers Giraffe

Mini Zoo Keepers

Little animal lovers aged five and under will have a wild time on this zoo adventure as they come face-to-face with meerkats, zebras, giraffes, antelopes and rhinos.

  • The average lifespan of meerkats is 12 years, but they live for longer in captivity
  • A phenomenal sense of smell helps meerkats locate prey, which they then dig out with their long-clawed forefeet
  • In half a day, a meerkat can dig 400 holes and displace 50 times its bodyweight in sand!
  • Meerkats appear to be immune to scorpion and snake venom
  • The black patches around their eyes help protect against the constant glare of the sun, rather like humans wearing sunglasses