Taronga Zoo has begun forming a new meerkat breeding group, welcoming two new males to its meerkat mob.
Brothers ‘Maputo’ and ‘Xhosa’ recently arrived from Perth Zoo and keepers are hopeful a successful pairing with alpha female, Nairobi, will see meerkat pups born at Taronga for the first time in six years.
The two-year-old brothers have been busy investigating their new home, ahead of planned introductions this week.
“They’re settling in really well and are very confident exploring their exhibit. Xhosa is particularly fond of one of the hollow logs in the exhibit and will often poke his head out to survey the surrounding area,” said Carnivore Keeper, Courtney Mahony.
Courtney said introductions to the Zoo’s resident females, Nairobi and Sahara, would take place gradually over the coming weeks to help ensure a cohesive social group.
“Meerkats may be small and cute, but they have a very complex social hierarchy. We’ll start with brief introductions of about 15 minutes and gradually increase their time together, watching for positive behaviours and interactions,” she said.
The last meerkat pups to be born at Taronga were sisters, Nairobi and Zanzibar, on 23 January 2009.
“Nairobi is about to turn six years old, so it would be wonderful to see her raising her own pups in the not too distant future,” said Courtney.
Taronga Zoo is part of the regional breeding program for meerkats, helping to ensure a future for the species in case numbers were to collapse in the wild.
Native to southern Africa, meerkats have adapted to living in very harsh conditions and climate, such as those found in the Kalahari Desert. They have ears that can close in the event of a sand storm and dark patches around their eyes to lessen the desert glare like sunglasses.
The best time to see the new additions to Taronga’s meerkat group, Maputo and Xhosa, is during one of the morning feeding sessions.