Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Case of the Stolen Meerkat

A very shocking thing happened recently right here in Kansas City:  someone kidnapped a meerkat from the zoo!  When the zookeepers first noticed that the meerkat was gone, they didn't know if a person stole it or if a hawk ate it.  But then the meerkat showed up again in an aquarium that was left outside a Petco store.  So the people who work at Petco called the police, and they came and got the meerkat, and they took it back to where it belongs at the zoo.  And one exciting thing is that the Petco where this happened is the very same Petco where Mom often goes to buy us some dog treats and stuff like that.  But Mom was not there at the right time to see the meerkat.

Anyway, after that, the mystery was solved of what happened to the missing meerkat, because now we know that some person stole it from the zoo.  And the reason this person probably did that was because meerkats are very cute, and they have their own TV show, Meerkat Manor, and people think they must make nice little pets.  But this is not true at all, because meerkats bite and they can claw you with their long, sharp claws.  Also they are stinky and they spray pee on stuff.

Another reason why meerkats make bad pets is because they like to live in groups that are called "mobs," "gangs," or "clans," and if one meerkat is all by itself, it can totally freak out and get really aggressive.  In the UK, there are people who are selling and buying meerkats as pets, and it can cost 1000 pounds to buy one.  Then you have to keep it caged because otherwise it will destroy stuff in your house, but keeping it in a cage isn't good for it, and the meerkat can get all stressed.  And that's why there is a group called Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) that is working on trying to keep people from buying meerkats as pets.

So anyway, the real way that meerkats should live is where they have always lived, which is in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa.  A clan of meerkats can be maybe 20 animals or as many as 50.  And usually all the meerkats in one colony are related to each other.

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family.  They are active during the daytime, and they like to stand up on their hind legs, which it's easy for them to do because they use their tails to help balance themselves.  A meerkat weighs about 2 pounds, and it has a body that is about 12 inches long.  They have black patches around their eyes, and these are kind of like natural sunglasses.  They can close their ears when they are digging, so that the dirt won't go in their ears.

The diet of meerkats is mostly insects, scorpions, lizards, snakes, spiders, worms, birds, and eggs.  Also they eat tubers and roots.  Scorpion venom doesn't hurt them, which is why meerkats can eat scorpions.  Since they can't store up a lot of body fat, meerkats have to spend time every day looking for stuff to eat.  And while everybody is looking for food, one of them will watch out for predators.  They take turns doing this.  And if the sentry sees a predator, he barks loudly or whistles, so everybody can run into their burrows.  The main predators of the meerkats are jackals and martial eagles.

Meerkats live in long networks of burrows that they share with ground squirrels and yellow mongooses.  The alpha pair mates and makes baby meerkats three or four times a year.  Each litter has one to five pups in it.  Other meerkats in the group help out by babysitting the pups while the mom and dad are out looking for food.

There are still lots of meerkats living in the Kalahari, so we don't have to worry about them becoming extinct.  And of course there are a lot of meerkats in zoos.  The Kansas City Zoo will be changing the meerkat exhibit during the winter so that it's not as easy for someone to get over the wall and kidnap a meerkat.  This is kind of sad because Mom says it was nice to be able to see the animals up close.

If we had a meerkat at our house, I would just eat it, and then we wouldn't have to worry about it getting stressed or peeing on the furniture or anything like that.  But I don't think Mom will let us have a meerkat, so I'm not even going to ask.


  1. So glad to know what happened to the stolen meerkat. I heard on the news that one had been stolen from the zoo, but then I never heard if it was returned. Why do people steal animals? Yes, they are cute....but jeez!! Time to get moving....much to do today.
    Love, AP

  2. That's just crazy that someone would steal a meerkat. Our local zoo had an otter escape, but I don't know whatever happened to it. There were sightings for a while, but that was a while ago.

    I do think it is nice that meerkats are looking to cross-train as photographers incase they get old and can't model infront of the camera any more.

    Your friend,
    Zest, superstar in training

  3. I think maybe the meerkats are learning to do all the work to produce their TV show. That way they won't have to depend on humans to do it. Those meerkats are pretty darned smart about these things!

    Your friend, Piper

  4. I am doing a project and i have to find "Links to at least three other organizations that would benefit the preservation of this species" can you help?

  5. Dear Anonymous,
    I am not really a meerkat expert, but I tried Googling "meerkat preservation" and I got several organizations that seem to be helping this species survive. One of them was the World Wildlife Fund, which is a big, important organization. Good luck with your project!