Meet the Meerkats!
If you haven’t been by to visit lately, the African elephants now have some new, tiny neighbors in the all-new African Savanna, the slender-tailed meerkats!
“Old man” Blaze and four younger male meerkats, Kingsley, Littlefoot, Spike and Petrie, recently moved into their new, expansive habitats on Tembo Trek. Kingsley is the uncle of 1-year-old brothers Littlefoot, Spike and Petrie, and the four recently came to Zoo Atlanta from another AZA-accredited zoo. Blaze, if you remember, lived in our former meerkat habitat before construction on the African Savanna began. A member of an original group of meerkats who arrived at the Zoo in 2007, Blaze is now 13 years old so is considered geriatric for a meerkat.
Because of his age, it was determined that Blaze would not be introduced to the younger four, who may not accept him into their group (known as a mob). He is still able to see the other group, and vice versa, so that social interactions are possible without their actually sharing the same space As you walk up Tembo Trek, you will see the young mob of Kingsley, Littlefoot, Spike and Petrie playing and exploring their new habitat to the right, and Blaze is enjoying a quieter lifestyle in his habitat to the left.
You’ll first notice how much space the meerkats have in the new habitats. There is plenty of sand for the meerkats to dig in and explore, and each habitat is fitted with large, manmade termite mounds, which the meerkats can climb to get some elevation and monitor their surroundings. These termite mounds also have multiple tunnels the meerkats can dig through and rest in. While the two habitats are separated at the moment, they can be connected via tunnels to make one large habitat.
When you visit, you’ll certainly see the meerkats’ altruistic behavior in action. Altruistic means that the meerkats work for the good of the mob rather than for the good of the individual meerkat – essentially meerkats have certain duties they perform to help the mob thrive. With the young mob, Kingsley usually has the role of the sentry who sits up high scouting the area to alert the mob of potential danger. The younger brothers, in the meantime, get to forage and explore and play.
Be sure to check out all our interpretive signage at the new habitats too. You can learn what it’s like to be a meerkat, what it’s like for our Elephant Team to care for the meerkats, and how you can help preserve the habitats for meerkats in the wild.
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