Meerkats are a small animal found in dry areas of southern Africa. They are omnivores, so they eat insects, spiders, snails, eggs, plant roots and more! They will spend much of their day digging in the sand looking for their next snack. Every night, they shelter in burrows and come back out in the early morning. Meerkats will roam around their territory, which has many overnight burrows and hundreds of emergency bolt-holes that provide safety from predators such as eagles and jackals.
Meerkats are social animals. They live year-round in a group called a mob. At the end of the day, you might see a pile of meerkats huddling together for warmth and grooming one another. You might also see digging teams working together on their burrows and bolt-holes. By day, meerkats will take turns to stand guard on termite mounds. The guards are called sentries, they scan the sky and sand looking out for any signs of approaching danger. The sentry will alert the mob, then they all quickly hide in the many bolt-holes. If the sentry sees a different mob or a large predator, such as a cobra, on their territory they all work together to protect their burrows. The burrows provide much needed safety. They will also work together to raise babies. Helper meerkats will babysit the pups in the burrows for the first month. Later, when the pups are older and are learning to search for food, helpers will share their meals, making sure the pups are well fed.
Living in a group helps the meerkats survive in such a tough environment. The sentry makes sure that everyone can feed safely. The helpers make sure the pups are well fed and protected. The hunters work together, providing food for the weaker members of the mob. Teachers will show the pups how to hunt and capture prey. When they all work together, they can protect their territory, dig overnight burrows, and dig hundreds of bolt-holes. Meerkats survive because they work together, and everyone takes turns in each of the roles.