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17 October 2011

Melbourne Zoo's meerkat troupe of nine have moved into their new home at the recently renovated Royal Children's Hospital precinct at the weekend. The hospital will become the first in the world to permanently exhibit live animals.

The meerkats were chosen as the perfect animals to be on display at the hospital due to their highly active and social nature and because they love interacting with people.

The display itself replicates their natural habitat, being open air and providing maximum sunlight exposure. The enclosure has an abundance of tunnels, perching points and enrichment items for meerkats to play and forage.

The curious family, who have lived together for several years at Melbourne Zoo were officially welcomed by distinguished guests over the weekend.

The enclosure is one of a number of community partnership programs that form part of the new Royal Children's Hospital Project.

Zoos Victoria's CEO, Jenny Gray, was delighted that the animals will be able to provide welcome relief to sick children and their families during their stay at the hospital.

"We hope some of this meerkat magic will rub off on sick children and give them a connection with the outside world while they're inside the hospital getting better.''

Staff at Melbourne Zoo will visit the hospital every day to clean, feed and care for the animals as well as provide educational sessions and deliver conservation messages to children.

The new Royal Children's Hospital will be officially opened by the Queen during her visit to Victoria on October 26 and the first patients will move into the hospital on November 30.

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The meerkat is not a cat, it is a member of the civet family, which includes the otter and mongoose. You can help us fight extinction by adopting the Meerkat.

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