If you’ve been following our story, you will know that I have a soft-spot in my heart for certain creatures…and one of them, is meerkats. Besides their cute-factor, I love how they work together as a team to survive. Let’s be honest, their small size, largely inhospitable habitat of choice and the fact that they are pretty much defenceless are all stacked against them surviving solo. However, these little chaps (adults are only about 30cm tall) are fierce hunters, tremendous diggers and extremely gregarious, having close-knit family relationships. Together as a ‘mob’ or gang, meerkats (Suricata suricatta) thrive. In the little Karoo, is a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of their daily lives while you sip on your morning coffee.
4 Things we can learn from meerkats
Share the workload
Everyone has a role to play in the mob. While some look for food, others are on the lookout for predators. The babysitters may have to remain in the burrow all day looking after the pups but this duty rotates (explained later) so everyone gets a chance to feed. They all work together to dig a complex series of burrows where they cuddle up at night and hide from predators. When escaping isn’t an option, meerkats band together. They will even take on a menacing cobra! They work as a team to intimidate the snake into submission, truly impressive!
You don’t have to do everything yourself! Although the mob is lead by an alpha-pair, the female tends to be the dominant one. She is the only female allowed to breed. Interestingly though, other adult females will lactate when the dominant female has pups. In this way, she is able to carry on with her life and share the workload of feeding and raising the little ones…
Meerkats constantly talk to each other. This chattering reassures them that they’ve ”got each other’s back”. While foraging, the appointed sentry calls out and warns his family of potential danger. Good communication strengthens any relationship and in the case of meerkats, your life depends on it.
Teach by example
Meerkats are omnivores; they rummage through the veld digging up plant roots and looking for caterpillars, beetles and other creepy crawlies like scorpions. You can imagine that catching a venomous scorpion is no easy task. But with lightning-fast moves they are able to remove the poisonous tail and crunch-crunch, the battle is won. Rather than letting youngsters try and figure it out on their own, parents actually teach them how to catch and handle these critters through a series of lessons; starting with a dead scorpion and slowly progressing to a live scorpion. In this manner, the youngsters master each stage and build up their confidence until they can take on the real thing. It’s so interesting that this Meerkat Model of tiered coaching has been adopted in many businesses where complex skills need to be taught!
Would you like to spend a morning with meerkats in the wild? We will sit and watch them scurry out their burrows and bake their bellies in the early-morning sun. This is a fantastic opportunity to go on a tech detox…immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the natural beauty of the Karoo. Join me on a Karoo Escape for a wilderness experience no other! A