A family of meerkats, one of Africa’s most entertaining species, is now burrowing into visitors’ hearts in a special exhibit at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
First popularized by the comical sidekick Timon in Disney’s “The Lion King,” and then celebrated in the Animal Planet television series “Meerkat Manor” (2005-2009), meerkats are members of the mongoose family that live in social “mobs” or “gangs” of up to 30 members in burrows in the Kalahari Desert, in the southern African nations of Botswana and South Africa.
No mere cats, meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are fascinating for living in structured but cooperative societies, including a foraging strategy where adults take turns standing guard upright on their hind feet, watching for predators, while the others eat. As the popular “Meerkat Manor” television series showed, the family-based “mobs” are not lacking in daily drama – from internal relationship issues to battles with other “mobs” encroaching on their territory to the ever-present fear of jackals and eagles.
“Meerkats” features six sibling meerkats – three males, three females – born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their exhibit offers the meerkats lots of opportunities for climbing, digging and exploring, with several feeding locations to keep them always on the alert for incoming crickets. Plus, a viewing bubble lets young visitors pop up right among the meerkats.
“Meerkats” is within another Africa-related exhibit, “Africa: From the Desert to the Sea,” which displays some of the lesser-known but equally fascinating aquatic creatures of Africa, including lungfish, electric catfish and colorful cichlids and reef fish.
For more information about The Maritime Aquarium’s exhibits, IMAX movies and programs, go online to www.MaritimeAquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700 ext. 2206.