Meerkat Dreams

Lisa G. Putman

Joined November 2007

Artist's Description

The Meerkat

Canon 30D DSLR; 70-200 mm lens f/2.8L with 2X ext. Memphis Zoo, Memphis, TN

Scientific Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Suricata
Desmarest, 1804
Species: S. suricatta
Conservation Status: Least Concern

The meerkat or suricate Suricata suricatta is a small mammal and a member of the mongoose family. It inhabits all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang”, or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains around 20 meerkats at a time, but some superfamilies have had 50 or more. Meerkats have an average life span of 12-14 years.

Meerkat" is a loan word from Afrikaans. The name came from Dutch but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat and German Meerkatze refer to the “guenon”, a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word “meerkat” is Dutch for “lake cat”, but the suricata is not in the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit markaţa मर्कट = “monkey”, perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor onboard a Dutch East India Company ship. The traders of the Dutch East India Company were likely familiar with monkeys, but the Dutch settlers attached the name to the wrong animal at the Cape. The suricata is called stokstaartje = “little stick-tail” in Dutch and Erdmännchen = “little earth-man” in German. The scientific name suricate comes from the Swahili language and it means “rock-cat”.

According to African popular belief (mainly in the Zambian/Zimbabwean region), the meerkat is also known as the sun angel, as it protects villages from the moon devil or the werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.

Meerkats forage in a group with one “sentry” on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. Baby meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about 1 month old, and do so by following an older member of the group who acts as the pup’s tutor.[citation needed] The meerkat standing guard makes peeping sounds when all is well. If the meerkat spots danger, it barks loudly or whistles

excerpt from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerkat

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