Suricate not Meerkat

Meerkats or Suricate Suricata suricatta is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. They are partial to dry areas and common in parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, Namibia, Angola and South Africa. A group of Meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan” and usually consist of about 20 individuals, sometimes up to 50.

Meerkat is a ‘loan’ word from the Dutch which is incorrect as Meerkat is Dutch for “Lake Cat” signifying that the Meerkat is part of the ‘cat’ family, which it is not. Meerkats live in desert areas proving that they are apt to living in dry areas so ‘Lake Cats’ is totally inappropriate.

Africa is shrouded in superstition and virtually all components of the biosphere are used, revered or worshiped for some or other reason – the Suricate being no exception. In Zambia and Zimbabwe Suricates are known as the sun angel as they protect villages from the moon devil or werewolf which is believed to attack stray cattle or lone tribesmen.


A sentry on guard


Always alert for predators

The Suricate is a small diurnal mongoose with males weighing about 731 grams and females about 720 grams. Unlike other mongoose species the tail is not bushy but thin and tapering and is used for balance when they stand on their hind limbs looking for predators.

Suricates are predominantly insectivores but will feed on lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, plants, eggs, small mammals, millipedes and centipedes as well as small birds. They are immune to certain venous including some of the very venomous Kalahari scorpions. Suricates store no fat reserves so daily feeding is essential. When feeding or foraging for food Suricates will always have at least one sentry looking out for predators and the alarm is a bark or whistle when a predator is spotted.


Digging for food

Nigel Anderson – Guide for African Insight


Photos courtesy of  Rainer Hoelterhoff


About Andrew Anderson

Managing Director: African Insight - Travel Experiences That Make A Difference African Insight - Explorations Tourism Concessionaire - Somkhanda Game Reserve
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1 Response to Suricate not Meerkat

  1. Congratulations I have nominated you for the SUNSHINE Award *Brigid

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