Apart from being icons of cuteness, meerkats are also fascinating creatures with amazing secret lives we're only just starting to discover.
When you sign up for a number of our outstanding Northern Cape experiences, you'll have the opportunity to meet a few of these cute critters for yourself at Kalahari Trails - a nature reserve and meerkat sanctuary nearby the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The reserve is home to a number of meerkat orphans - problem animals and those confiscated for cruelty which have been rehabilitated. At Kalahari Trails they are free to come and go as they like and to interact with the wild meerkats living on the reserve. They have even established a little breeding family group of their own!
Here are a few interesting facts to brush up on before meeting the at Kalahari Trails during one of our outstanding Northern Cape experiences.
1. Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family and area also known as suricates
2. They are most at home in semi-arid areas and can be found throughout the Kalahari desert regions of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, as well as South-Western Angola. In South Africa, you may also be able to spot some in the Karoo and Eastern Cape.
3. Extremely gregarious, meerkats live in family groups called 'mobs', 'gangs' or 'clans' with between 20 and 50 members.
4. These family groups are normally headed up by an 'alpha pair' of which the female is the dominant leader.
5. Communication is essential to the well-being of meerkat mobs, so it's hardly surprising that they make use of a huge array of calls, chirps and chatters to talk to each other. A study has found that one meerkat family uses up to 30 types of sounds to communicate among one another.
6. Like many other 'herd' or 'group' animals, meerkats always have a sentry to keep watch while the rest forage for food. Normally, when this guard spots danger, he/she will bark or whistle loudly to warn the others. Once the call has been sounded, the family will scamper to the safety of their burrow as quickly as possible.
7. Much of a meerkat's diet is made up of insects and other creepy crawlies - some of which may be dangerous in more ways than pincers or jaws. For this reason, meerkats' bodies have developed a natural antidote to scorpion venom and even that of certain snakes.
8. Similarly, meerkats have NO fear when it comes to cobras. A special tactic to deal with these imposing reptiles looks something like this: the entire mob will gather together on all fours with their tails in the air and advance forward toward the snake. From the snake's perspective, the meerkat group takes on the look of a massive and terrifying creature, so it quickly retreats!
Want to meet a meerkat yourself? Book one of the following Northern Cape experiences on our site or with Tour2.0:A 4x4 Enthusiast's Dream Adventure, Backpacking the Red Dunes of the Northern Cape or The Northern Cape Premier Experience.