I’ve just spent more time than I care to admit watching meerkats – all in the interest of research, of course! Who could resist taking a peek at the animal equivalent of your nosy neighbour, especially when you can do it from the comfort of your own living room or office? AnimalVision.com have set their CCTV sights on the Busch Gardens colony of meerkats and video feeds are available online 24/7. The new Meerkat Cam follows the success of the three other “spy” camera systems trained on the penguin enclosure, stingray and sea turtle tanks.
Viewers can switch between cameras to check out their habitat from different angles, download games and fun facts, snap amusing moments to share with family and friends, or post them on social media sites like Meerkat Monday. Whilst I was watching, the theme park steam train went past – with much bell clanging and whistle tooting – and up they popped to see what was going on, then scurried back down their burrows – possibly to organise a protest about the breach of their peace – the collective noun for meerkats is a Mob, after all!
The way they swivel their heads in response to attention seeking humans calling out to them (Hey! Mr. Meerkat! etc) is also funny to watch – you can almost hear them thinking “Oh, what now!” Their natural habitat is the hot and arid Kalahari Desert, carefully recreated in their Busch Gardens enclosure. In the wild, meerkats take turns to play the roles of lookout, babysitter and food forager.
They are not fussy eaters – bugs, small reptiles, birds, fruit and vegetation – anything they can lay their paws on will do – they need the energy to build their complex underground burrows, which can be up to 10 feet deep with 20 different exit/entry holes.
They communicate through sounds, scent and body language, and more than 20 different calls have been recorded (One of them has to be “Wassup!) The dark fur ring around their eyes act as sunglasses, and they they also have a nictitating membrane, which acts as a windscreen wiper to keep the desert sand out of their eyes. A “meer” 1 foot high when standing, they are capable of scanning vast distances, and their responses to danger – whether to group together to fight a predator, or flee into their burrows – are incredibly swift.
The Meerkat Cam stream would be a very welcome alternative to the awful piped muzak in doctors’ waiting rooms or on the ceiling at the dentist! I wonder what those entertaining critters are up to now….