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Safety in numbers: there’s a new clan in town

Categories: Animals, Meerkats

For the first time in the Sacramento Zoo’s history, we welcome a vivacious meerkat clan! Brand new to the zoo, this all-female clan originated from the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida is now on exhibit in Small Wonders next to Padme the aardvark.

What’s a meerkat? The “kat” isn’t a “cat” but rather a small carnivore belonging to the mongoose (herpestidae) family native to Africa. These gregarious animals are often seen in groups called “clans”, mobs or gangs. These dynamic social groups provide safety, companionship and survival for the species.

Meerkat clans spend much of their lives in underground burrows in large family groups of up to 40 individuals. Members of the family groups do not have to be related to belong to the same clan; however, the five new residents at the Sacramento Zoo are all related females.

three meerkats

In the wild, meerkat burrows are complex and expansive and include various chambers and exit points. They are generally deep enough to allow for a consistent temperature regardless of the conditions at the surface. Being diurnal, meerkats emerge from their burrows once the sun is up to warm themselves, groom and forage for food.

This species is specially adapted to life in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, making them exceptionally well-suited for the hot Sacramento days and cool nights, as well as the relatively temperate climate of the region in winter.

Meerkats have an excellent sense of smell, making it easy for them to find the small insects that comprise the majority of their diet.

Much of the construction work to augment the new meerkat habitat and former fennec fox exhibit was completed by the Sacramento Zoo’s in-house facilities team. With some training by Cemrock Landscapes Inc., the crew constructed a new termite mound as the focal point of the exhibit. Rock, vines, plants and substrate was all carefully planned and evaluated for the best needs of the clan. Meerkats are a gregarious and outgoing species and a full-front glass panel allows the animals to get up-close-and-personal with guests.

The five new members of the zoo’s newest clan join us from Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. These individuals are as unique and complex as their burrows and these engaging animals are sure to be a zoo-fan favorite. Get ready for some fun!

meerkat standing in exhibit next to glass

Meet the clan

This eight-year-old girl LOVES bugs! The matriarch of this female clan, she is the one in charge. She can often be seen scent marking and observing her daughters, making sure everyone stays in line. Kiki is the easiest to tell apart due to a small skin tag on her chin; a meerkat beauty mark!

Lizzie Sanchez:
Eyebrows on fleek! At four-years-old, this girl has some great white brows and may just be the Brooke Shields of meerkats. Lizzie is very curious and loves snacks.

An all-natural grill here! Named after her perfectly imperfect lower left canine, four-year-old Snaggletooth is the group’s sentry; she keeps watch for any danger. Keep an eye out for that tooth, it’s not shy!

Miss Pringle loves to dig. She is quite the perfectionist and can be spotted finding new areas to start construction on burrows. This four-year-old is often confused with little sister Bailey but her noteworthy difference include a pinker nose and more elongated facial features.

The youngest of the group, one-year-old Bailey is often watching and learning from her mother and sisters. She is enjoying her new home and though she may look like sister Pringle, Bailey is smaller and can be outgoing with her keepers.