Time to grow up, eat bugs, stand guard and look out for jackals at Wellington Zoo

Two meerkat pups learning about sentry duty in Wellington Zoo.
WELLINGTON ZOO/ SUPPLIED

Two meerkat pups learning about sentry duty in Wellington Zoo.

In every life there comes a time to give up childish things and become a man, or possibly a woman: either way, there's a lot of bug-eating and sentry duty involved.

Meerkat multiplication has happened at Wellington Zoo, with a litter of four pups arriving to a single mum, called Mamma.

Marketing and communications manager Libby Callander said pups born at the end of March were now approaching the age when they would switch from mother's milk to solids.

"The pups are beginning to eat the same food as the adults – so things like meal worms and crickets. They will still be having some milk, and they usually are fully weaned at about nine weeks."

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They were still too young for staff to work out whether they were boy or girl meerkats, which wouldn't be possible till about three months.

At Wellington Zoo there were three female and two male meerkats in the mob, which are traditionally run by a dominant female.

Callander said the pups were born to a single female meerkat, but "out of the two males, which don't know which one of them is the father".

She said the zoo didn't usually name meerkats, but staff had affectionately dubbed the female "Mamma".

The pups would be staying at the zoo and becoming full members of the mob, with the accompanying mob jobs.

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Meerkats are members of the mongoose family, and can be found in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. In captivity they can live for up to 14 years.

They are known for posting a sentry, who stands upright looking for predators such as birds and jackals, as fellow mob members forage for bugs and lizards.

"They'll start sharing the duties that the parents will start teaching them. That's digging tunnels, acting like sentries."

 - Stuff

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