San Diego, California - A Southwest African meerkat pup is carefully watched over by its mother at the San Diego Zoo. The pup recently emerged from its burrow, and while it still spends most of its time below ground, it is beginning to spend longer periods of time above ground each day, where it is learning to forage for food and play with its mother and other members of its mob, or family group.
The pup is estimated to be between five and six weeks old and its sex is yet to be determined.
Meerkats are native to African savannahs. They are very vocal, social animals related to the mongoose. Meerkats sleep in underground burrows overnight, coming out when the sun comes up. During daylight hours, one adult keeps watch over the mob as they eat, groom and sunbathe. Meerkats share the duty of raising pups and teaching them to hide, hunt, clean and defend all that is theirs. Meerkat pups are born with their eyes and ears shut and are mostly hairless at birth. Their eyes open after two weeks, they start eating food other than milk at around three weeks, and begin venturing out of their den at four weeks of age. They are completely weaned by nine weeks.
Visitors can best see the meerkat pup and its mob mid-morning and afternoons at their exhibit in the Zoo's Africa Rocks. The Zoo currently offers extended hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during Nighttime Zoo, now through September 1.