Another favorite animal of mine is the meerkat or suricate. If I remember correctly, “meer” means “watch,” in Afrikaans, and “kat,” is well, cat. So “watching cat.” I’m going with that because, there are other translations, like the Dutch one which is “lake cat.” But here’s the thing, the meerkat is not even part of the cat family. It’s a mammal belonging to the same family as the mongoose and native to the Kalahari Desert of South Africa and Botswana. Weighing approximately 1.5 lbs, and standing only 10-14 inches, meerkats are best known for their cute young—see the picture below—and for their group behavior (the groups are known as mobs, gangs, or clans). Within a meerkat mob, selfless behavior is displayed as one or more of the mob members take defensive positions so that the others can play or forage without worry.
It took Disney’s 1994 animated film, The Lion King, to bring this delightful little creature to the forefront of popular culture. Who can forget Timon, the meerkat, who along with the warthog, Pumba, provided comic relief? And then how about the popular BBC TV series, Meerkat Manor. that premiered in September 2005 and ran for four seasons until its cancellation in August 2008. Blending more traditional animal documentary style footage with dramatic narration, the series tells the story of the Whiskers, one of more than a dozen families of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. One of the criticisms of the show was that the chroniclers didn’t intervene when a meerkat was injured and faced death. Hey, that’s what happens in real life. But I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to have my heart ripped out of my chest watching it happen. Check the delightful shot below taken by a farmer in Harrismith, South Africa, during the winter of 2009—a very cold one, obviously. (Double-click on the photo to enlarge so you can see the little cuties on the left.)