At Monkey Haven: Come and meet our mischievous mob of Meerkats – they love digging around, grooming each other, and people watching. These fascinating animals are rescued pets – they used to be kept in cramped, unsuitable conditions. Now, they have lots of space to play and have everything they need. The little desert-dwellers were donated to us by our friends at the AAP in the Netherlands after they were seized from a neglectful breeder in Belgium. Named after some of the world’s most famous deserts, Kalahari, Karoo, Sahara, Nyiri and Gibson have settled into Haven life extremely quickly and have been an instant hit with our visitors!

The lowdown: Meerkats are members of the Mongoose family – they’re very clever creatures with a sophisticated social structure. Each of the animals is assigned a role – eg babysitter, teacher or guard – and they’re ruled by the Alpha female, so Mum’s the boss. In the wild, up to 40 live in a group known as a gang or a mob, usually in underground burrows. They come from dusty desert areas in South Africa.

Diet: They love foraging for live locusts, and eat lots of insects, spiders, rodents, scorpions and small birds.

Furry facts:

  • They have dark patches around their eyes to act as natural sunglasses against the glare of the desert sun.
  • They have scent pouches beneath their tails which they use to mark their territory.
  • Meerkats are strong fighters – and will fight to the death.
  • They communicate with chirps and barks which all mean something specific – like ‘run for it!!’