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12 March 2014, 14:28
After a long wet winter, spring has finally arrived at Cotswold Wildlife Park as the Meerkats have produced their first pup for 2014.
This latest arrival weighed approximately thirty grams at birth. The first few weeks of life were spent hidden away from visitors in a burrow, but the youngster has now confidently emerged, exploring the outdoor enclosure and playfully interacting with its new family.
Jamie Craig, Curator at Cotswold Wildlife Park, said: “We have had great success with our Meerkats over the years. They're such endearing creatures and are always a great hit with our visitors.”
These highly social and charismatic animals possess a unique approach to rearing their young. Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) have a fascinating social structure whereby any newborns are looked after by the entire family for the first few months, each adult taking on their individual share of the nursery chores. Even other females in the group will lactate to help feed the pups. Once born, baby Meerkats soon become the most important members of the group. Adults become tender guardians to the youngsters.
At around six weeks old, the Meerkat will join the rest of the group. Each baby is an apprentice to an adult from which it learns where and how to find and handle food - a vital task as their diet in the wild can include scorpions and other small ground-dwelling animals. Young Meerkats learn from the adults how to kill their prey without getting hurt.
Visitors can see the tiny, as-yet-unnamed, newborn daily in the enclosure near the Bactrian Camels. The Meerkats also share their home with two Porcupines.