Meerkats do pose a slight danger to humans.  Meerkats are significant carriers of rabies.  But there have only been ten documented cases of rabies-infected meerkats attacking people or domestic animals in the last ten years.  They are also carriers of tick-borne diseases.  On a more positive note they also help out humans.  Meerkats may slow the increase of agricultural pest populations.  Meerkats adapt well to captive settings and are a popular zoo exhibit animal.  Meerkats are highly social and live in packs consisting of three familial groups.  There can be up to thirty individuals in a pack.  Each family group includes a breeding pair and their offspring.  Meerkats exhibit behavior where one member of the group poses look out, watching for predators and other dangers.  Older members of the group share their food with the younger meerkats.  Predators include hawks, eagles, and jackals.  Meerkats show a variety of anti-predator behaviors such as alarm calling, maintaining an alert stance, running for cover, defense threats, mobbing an enemy, self defense, and covering the young.  In defense threats, meerkats appear larger than they really are.  If a predator approaches in spite of the warnings, a meerkat will lie on its back with teeth and claws fully visible, protecting the back of its neck.  For aerial predators, meerkats will flee to the burrow if an attack seems possible. 


Meerkats are an important link in the food web because they provide food for predators.  They also take many invertebrates, acting as a control on their own prey populations.  Meerkat play closely mirrors real fighting but play doesn’t improve individual fighting skills.  When a group feels like they are under attack they will stand together and act fiercely to scare the predator away.  They could also dig quickly to stir up dust so they can hide.  Like I previously stated in the habitat section, meerkats live with African ground squirrels or yellow mongoose in their burrows.  This relationship is mutualistic because they can help each other dig burrows.  Meerkats biggest predator would be raptorial birds.  Meerkats have a matriarchal society which means that the mother is dominantly in charge.  Also, female meerkats tend to be slightly larger than the male meerkats.  Meerkat mobs spend their time grooming and playing together to keep the family as a tight unit.  Meerkats are very territorial and will fight to defend their home from other meerkat mobs.  To show this meerkat mobs have scent pouches and will rub these pouches on rocks and plants to mark their territory.  Meerkat are food sources to eagles, hawks, snakes, and jackals.  Meerkats eat many different types of insets, eggs, vegetable matter, and sometimes small mammals like rodents. 

Photo by Roberta Stacy


Photo taken by Amanda Hustad This picture is taken from on the outside of the meerkat exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

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