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Blaze: the meerkat godfather

Hi all! Elephant Keeper Caleb here! Did you know the Elephant Care Team also takes care of the Zoo’s meerkats? It makes sense since they are right across the pathway from the Zambezi Elephant Center! Here at Zoo Atlanta, we currently have five meerkats that are split into two “mobs” – a “mob” is what you call a group of meerkats. Our first mob consists of the Zoo’s four newest meerkats that came to us last fall – Kingsley, Little Foot, Petrie and Spike, while our second mob is currently our mob of one, Blaze – our meerkat godfather.

Blaze has been at Zoo Atlanta since spring of 2007 and is 13 years old, which far exceeds the life expectancy of meerkats in human care.  Once a part of a large mob that has since gotten old and passed away, Blaze is beating the odds and staying strong! While meerkats are social animals, they rarely accept new members into the group, especially an older male with younger males. In efforts to protect Blaze from potential aggressive behavior from the younger boys in our other mob, he does not share the same space with the others. Given the setup of the two habitats, however, he still has the opportunity to see and interact with the other meerkats without actually sharing the same space. When you’re visiting the Zoo, you can usually spot one of the younger boys checking out Blaze from the glass view between their two habitats!

Since he is considered a more timid meerkat, our team was curious to see how Blaze would readjust his new home on the African Savanna. He did great, and he is doing fantastic! Right off the bat, he quickly was comfortable exploring his new habitat, and he can now regularly be seen either standing sentry on top of his habitat’s termite mound or even kicked-back relaxing along his habitat wall. Either way, he draws a crowd and appears to like the attention!

One way we give Blaze some extra attention is by tong-feeding him his regular diet that consists of prepared meatballs with oatmeal, chopped celery and lettuce, hard-boiled egg, and commercial dog food. Not only is it enriching to vary the way he gets his daily diet, but it strengthens the relationships we have with him. And from this foundation, we are able to ask him for various behaviors, such as stepping up onto a scale or present his nails for nail trims, which better the way we care for him.

While it has been fun and exciting to welcome new meerkats to the Zoo these past few months, all of us on the Meerkat Care Team still have a special place in our hearts for Blaze. Whether it’s coming into the indoor meerkat area in the morning to him curled up in a ball in his bed, or walking past the outdoor meerkat habitat in the afternoons where Blaze has perched himself onto the highest point and barking at those who don’t give him attention, Blaze makes our days, and we always look forward to seeing him!
Caleb U.
Keeper I, Elephants

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