The “cute meter” hit an all-time high this morning (April 18), as the meerkat mob at the San Diego Zoo showed off four new additions to the family. Mom Debbie has given birth to four adorable baby meerkats, and the pups have left their den behind to explore the interesting world above ground.
Animal care staff became excited when they realized Debbie was pregnant with a new litter, and they began to diligently monitor her weight to estimate when the pups would arrive. In March, Zoo staff noticed Debbie was spending her time underground, indicating it was time to give birth. Normally, meerkat moms keep their newborns secluded underground for up to a week before allowing them to meet with the rest of the family; however, Debbie surprised everyone by introducing the babies after only three days!
Today, the four youngsters—just a month old—are out of their den playing, eating and exploring their habitat. Animal Care staff explains that in meerkat society, everyone has a job, whether it’s being a sentry or babysitting. Now that the pups are old enough, every member of the family—under the direction of Debbie, of course—will provide the babies with important survival training, including the most important meerkat behavior: digging.
Zoo staff says that, for meerkats raising new pups, it takes a village—or, in this case, a mob. “The rest of the family, made up of older siblings, is also very involved with raising the pups,” says Liz Johnson, keeper. “They are great babysitters and are constantly checking on them. The pups are very vocal, and their siblings are quick to respond if they call out.”
Although their name may cause some confusion, meerkats are not cats. They are a vital, clever and amazing weasel-like animal that is a member of the mongoose family. Wild meerkat populations are currently stable at this time. However, over the past couple of decades, movies and television shows have brought meerkats a lot of attention, with many people wondering if they can keep a meerkat as a pet. Although they may look cute, meerkats—like all wild animals—do not make good pets, and they are illegal to own without the proper permits and licenses.
Zoo guests can see mom Debbie, her four adorable pups and the other 12 members of the mob play, nap and eat in their habitat at the San Diego Zoo.