Meerkat Kittens in Kent
Three baby meerkats have made their first appearance at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park
The female kittens were born on the 5th April, and are slowly gaining in confidence and regularly venture out of their birthing burrow.
They are particularly special as they are the first to be born to the park's female meerkat Tiggs, who had to be hand-reared when she was an infant.
Tiggs was born at Port Lympne in May 2009 and keepers made the difficult decision to remove her from their mother Tellula because all her previous offspring had died at a young age from a disease known as toxoplasmosis, which affects the immune system.
Tiggs was taken into the home of Head Keeper Richard Barnes who fed her every two hours with milk. Fellow keepers took it in turns "meerkat-sitting" and Tiggs enjoyed the luxury of a whole department of expert keepers at her beck and call.
Last year Tiggs was moved into a purpose built home at the park’s Discovery Zone where she was joined by two males called Chizi and Achari in September.
Richard Barnes said: "After a difficult start in life Tiggs is a real success story and we are really pleased with the new arrivals, all of which are doing well.
"As meerkat societies are matriarchal Tiggs is actually the head of the group. All meerkat group members participate in looking after young so both Chizi and Achari are getting involved."
Some Meerkat Facts
* Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family, and live in Southern Africa.
* Meerkat means "lake cat" in Afrikaans, although they actually live in underground burrows in deserts and bush.
* A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”.
* Meerkat kittens are born after a gestation period of 10-11 weeks. Their eyes and ears are closed until they are around 10 days old and they do not begin to emerge from the burrow until they are three weeks old.
* They can grow to 30cm (12inches) tall and weigh around 0.9kg (2 pounds). Their tail grows to around 20 centimetres (8 inches) long and helps them balance on their back paws.
* The dark markings around their eyes act like sunglasses protecting them from the glare of the sun, while their dark skinned, bellies are used like solar panels for warmth.
* They like to eat scorpions (venom and poison does not affect them), spiders, worms, birds and beetles.
* Meerkats can dig their own body weight in dirt in a matter of seconds.