The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Suricate / Meerkat

Afrikaans name: Meerkat

Ain't I cute? A Meerkat keeping a look-out

Portrait of a Suricate / Meerkat

Photo © Steven Herbert

Suricata suricatta

Interesting facts about Meerkats

The proper English name for the Meerkat is the Suricate but, in South Africa, I don't know of anyone who uses that name…

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family. They occur in the drier areas of South Africa.

Meerkats are very social creatures and live in groups of up to 50 individuals, with the average being around 20. These groups are sometimes referred to as clans, mobs or gangs.

The Meerkat weighs less than one kilogram and has a body length of about 30 cm (excluding the tail).

They have long claws which are used for digging burrows as well as for digging for food. Meerkats mainly eat insects but will take smaller reptiles, eggs, spiders, scorpions and some plants.

Meerkats can produce 5 young in a litter and may have up to 4 litters in a year. The dominant male and female in a clan may kill the young from other females.

A group of Meerkats make a system of underground burrows for security and for sleeping. They are well-known for having some individuals act as lookouts who warn the rest of the group of approaching danger. The animals then scurry to safety in their burrow.

A Meerkat stretching

Photo © Steven Herbert

References and further reading

Wild Ways - 2nd Edition - Author: Peter Apps - Published: 2000 - Page: 96

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 206

Wild Issue 1 - Author: - Published: 2007 - Page: 12

Wild Issue 21 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 76

Wild Issue 24 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 74

Wild Issue 40 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 40

Wild Issue 49 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 66

Tracks and Tracking in Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Published: 2000 - Page: 69

Questions and Answers - Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Published: 1990 - Page: 16

Signs of the Wild - 3rd Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Published: 1986 - Page: 77

Signs of the Wild - 5th Edition - Author: Clive Walker - Published: 1996 - Page: 68

Southern African Wildlife - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1989 - Page: 83

The Living Deserts of Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Darry Lovegrove - Published: 2021 - Page: 84

The Living Deserts of Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Darry Lovegrove - Published: 2021 - Page: 158

The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Burger Cillie - Published: 2011 - Page: 164

The Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa - Author: P. Briggs - Published: 2020 - Page: 326

Land Mammals of Southern Africa - A field guide - Author: Reay HN Smithers - Published: 1986 - Page: 120

Maberlys Mammals of Southern Africa - Revised edition - Author: Richard Goss - Published: 1986 - Page: 149

Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Burger Cillie - Published: 1987 - Page: 31

Mammals of the Kruger and other National Parks - Author: The National Parks Board - Published: 1980 - Page: 64

First Field Guide to Animal Tracks of Southern Africa - Author: Louis Liebenberg - Published: 2003 - Page: 28

Guide to the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park - Author: Gus Mills and Clem Haagner - Published: 1996 - Page: 58

Questions and Answers - Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Published: 1990 - Page: 12

Predators of Southern Africa - A field guide - Author: Grobler, Hall-Martin & Walker - Published: 2012 - Page: 80

Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd edn - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1991 - Page: 418

Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 2001 - Page: 142

Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1997 - Page: 250

Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind - Author: B. Hilton-Barber & Prof. L. R. Berger - Published: 2004 - Page: 154

Country Life - Issue 245 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 20

Chris and Tilde Stuarts Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa - 1st Edit - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1988 - Page: 142

An Introduction to the Larger Mammals of Southern Africa - Author: Joanna Dalton - Published: 1987 - Page: 92

African Wildlife - A photographic safari - Author: Nigel and Wendy Dennis - Published: 1999 - Page: 106

A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern and East African Wildlife - 3rd - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 2000 - Page: 48

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar - Author: Theodor Haltenorth and Helmut Diller - Published: 1980 - Page: 205


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List of South African Mammals

Is a Meerkat a Mongoose?

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