Taronga Zoo has welcomed its largest litter of Meerkats ever, with keepers monitoring the progress of six playful pups.
The pups were born on 7 November, but have just begun to venture outside their nest box to explore Taronga’s African-themed Meerkat exhibit.
This is the third litter for experienced parents Nairobi and Maputo, following the birth of male Lwazi and female Serati in January and females Ntombi and Xolani in August.
Keeper, Courtney Mahony said the size of this litter came as a complete surprise.
“We knew that Nairobi was bigger than she was during her previous pregnancies, but we definitely weren’t expecting six pups! Meerkats usually give birth to 3-4 pups, so mum certainly has her paws full this time,” said Courtney.
Amazingly, Courtney said Nairobi appeared to be relaxed and confident caring for the largest litter of pups in Taronga’s history.
“She’s an incredible mother and seems to be taking it all in her stride. She’s so attentive to the pups and she’s getting lots of babysitting help from dad and her eldest daughter, Serati,” said Courtney.
Keepers will confirm the sex of the pups when they have their first veterinary examination next month, but they suspect there are three males and three females. They have begun to do hands on health checks and are weighing the pups regularly to ensure they are healthy and comfortable in their presence.
The yet-to-be-named pups have started to sample solid foods, such as mealworms, wood roaches, fruit and vegetables, and the largest of the litter tips the scales at over 140 grams.
“They are growing a bit slower than our two previous litters, but they’re still hitting all the right milestones and starting to show their own little personalities. The biggest pup is a boy and he’s definitely the most adventurous of the six. He’s the first out of the nest box each morning and the first one to explore new things,” said Courtney.
Visitors will start to see the new additions to Taronga’s Meerkat mob for brief periods each day, as the pups are slowly introduced to the outside world under the watchful eyes of their parents and keepers.
“Every day they spend more time out of their nest box, hanging out with mum and their brothers and sisters. They’re starting to play and learn behaviours like standing up on their hind legs, jumping and running. They develop so quickly, so it’ll probably only be another week before they’re wrestling and chasing each other around the exhibit,” said Courtney.