Our family of meerkats are very popular with all the visitors to the centre. They reside at "Meerkat Kastle" - a purpose-built facility in our Woodland Walk - designed to house these fascinating creatures in a way which illustrates their unique way of life to best advantage.
Our founding partners Bonnie & Bandit started the colony at Stonham with offspring Zulu & Mali, and early in April the following year produced their first four youngsters - we couldn't resist calling them Eeny, Meeny, Miny & Moe - and since then the family grew to sixteen! Sadly, both Mum & Dad are no longer with us and three of our mob now live separately but the remaining eleven are an entertaining bunch which continue to fulfil their family duties with gusto and charm.
Meerkat feeding sessions are held daily in Summer at 11:00 and 3:00pm, and 11.00am and 3.00pm in Winter, weather and other conditions permitting.
Take an up-close-&-personal walk on the wild side with our meerkats at a "Meet the Meerkats" encounter session, where you will spend time inside their enclosure discovering all about these fascinating creatures with one of our trained handlers. Held daily 10:30am and 2:30pm five days a week, each encounter lasts for 20-25 mins and is restricted to a maximum of 5 people aged 12 & over per encounter. Booking is advisable but we can sometimes accommodate latecomers if space allows - please ask at reception. The price per encounter session is £20.00 per person, best booked in advance but can be booked on the day if spaces are available. Spectators are welcome but they are not allowed into the meerkat enclosure. To book a Meerkat Encounter, please call us in 03456 807897 / Option 3.
Participants in our Meerkat Encounters are advised that our troop are a very friendly and inquisitive bunch, but they have very scratchy claws! So, we suggest you wear clothing and footwear that covers arms and legs, and open-toed sandals are not a good idea - meerkats are great toe-nibblers! Also, Meerkat Encounters are not advised for women in pregnancy. Thank you.
Meerkats are small mammals belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and also Namibia, southwestern Angola and South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob" which often contains about 20 meerkats in the wild.
Meerkats are burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day. They are very social - animals in the same group regularly groom each other to strengthen social bonds. The alpha pair often scent mark subordinates of the group to express their authority, and this is usually followed by the subordinates grooming the alphas and licking their faces. Most meerkats in a group are all siblings or offspring of the alpha pair.
Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behaviour within their colonies; One or more meerkats stand sentry while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops signalling and the others feel safe to emerge.
Meerkats also babysit the young in the group. Females that have never produced offspring of their own often lactate to feed the alpha pair's young. They also protect the young from threats, often endangering their own lives - on warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. If retreating underground is not possible, she collects all young together and lies on top of them.
Like many species, meerkat young learn by observing and mimicking adult behaviour though adults also engage in active instruction. For example, meerkat adults teach their pups how to eat venomous scorpions; They will remove the stinger and help the pup learn to handle the creature.
Despite this altruistic behaviour, meerkats sometimes kill young members of their group. Subordinate meerkats have been seen killing the offspring of more senior member in order to improve their own offspring's position.
Meerkats have been known to engage in social activities, including what appear to be wrestling matches and foot races.