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Five Meerkat kittens

21 June 2012

Carnivore Keepers are delighted to be looking after a new litter of five Meerkat kittens in the exhibit on the Main Drive.

They have been born into a new group formed when five young females arrived from South Africa in December.

The five sisters from the Monte Casina Bird Gardens were introduced to Melbourne Meerkat male Harry, and five kittens have been born.

The two male and three female kittens spent the earliest weeks after their birth on April 14th cuddled up in a burrow, but now they're out on view.
Keepers are spending extra time in the exhibit while feeding the group so the kittens get used to human company.

Once the kittens are comfortable near people, the Meerkat Close-up wild encounter experience will resume.

In spite of their misleading name, Meerkats don't belong to the family of feline species.

They are in fact one of the 66 Viverrid species, a widespread and diverse family of carnivores that includes the civets and mongooses.

The Zoo's Grey Meerkats, or Suricates, are native to arid areas of Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana.

They live in extended family groups, and in general only the dominant pair will breed. Other adults living in the group assist in raising any young produced by the dominant pair.

Meerkats are appreciated for being an extremely active species, with a high level of interaction between the group members.

They are also remarkable for their distinctive ‘sentry' system, with group members taking turns to stand guard on behalf of the others.

The individual on guard duty at any given time often climbs to a high vantage point to assist in spotting the approach of potential predators.

Zoo visitors can observe the Meerkat ‘sentries' scanning the skies, as in their native habitat they are subject to attack by birds of prey.