Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Slender-tailed Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

Meerkats are members of the mongoose family that live together in complex social groupings. They grow to be 10 to 14 inches long with a tail length that nearly doubles that. Meerkats have a slow metabolism, which allows them to live comfortably in natural environments with consistently warm temperatures. They spend most of their time foraging, basking in the sun and grooming.

Range & Habitat

Meerkats tend to live in savanna, shrubland, grassland and desert habitats in the western parts of southern Africa, including western and southern Namibia, southwestern Botswana, north and west South Africa, and southwestern Angola. They are present in several protected areas.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

The global meerkat population trend is stable and there are no major threats to the species. In-place land/water protection conservation actions are still present in several large and well-managed protected areas.


In the Wild: Invertebrates such as insects, grubs, termites and spiders, but get most of their water from eating fruit, roots and bulbs.

At the Zoo: Meat, mice, mealworms, diced carrots, green beans, crickets, and cat chow.

The naturally occurring amino acid Taurine is one of the most important components of a meerkat’s diet, both in the wild and in human care.

Life Span

In the Wild: 8 years
In Human Care: 10-15 years

Fun Facts about the Slender-tailed Meerkat

  •  Meerkats can live in groups as large as 30 individuals. These groups are called mobs.
  •  They have gray and brown fur with dark patches around their eyes, which help protect from the glare of the sun in their native Africa.
  •  They have powerful foreclaws and can create large underground networks with many entrances and exits.
  •  Female meerkats tend to be more vocal than males.
  •  You may recognize meerkats from their portrayal in the media, most popularly Timon from “The Lion King” and the stars of the British TV series “Meerkat Manor.”
  •  Even in very small groups, one meerkat will usually be on sentry duty keeping watch for predators.




AZA Small Carnivore TAG 2011. Mongoose, Meerkat, & Fossa Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD. p.103. Emmanuel Do Linh San (IUCN SSC Small Carnivore Specialist Group), and Neil Jordan.

“The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species- Suricata Suricatta (Meerkat).” IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 28 Feb. 2015,

“Meerkat.” Smithsonian's National Zoo, 3 Oct. 2019,



Updated June 13, 2023
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