Meerkats originate in the Kalahari Desert which regularly records below freezing temperatures in July and August, but at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo keepers have provided a little extra heat.
Usually in the wild when it gets a bit chilly, meerkats will be seen standing on their hind legs exposing their stomach to the sun to warm up. At Taronga Western Plains Zoo keepers make it little easier for them with infrared lamps in the meerkat exhibit.
Keeper Karen James says “The heat lamps are on a thermostat and once they’re switched on, it is not long before these curious little animals suss out where the warmth is coming from and bask underneath it.”
Smaller animals such as meerkats are prone to losing heat more quickly, but have developed lots of ways to keeper warm in the wild, spending the freezing nights in their burrows and using the sun to warm up quickly.
Some of these burrows can be up to two metres underground keeping temperatures warm.
They actually have a dark patch of skin on their beellies which hasn’t got much hair so it warms up quickly, sort of like a Meerkat Solar Panel.
“They will stay under the lamps and then make a dash for it usually foraging or digging for grubs, before they return to the lamps for another session of heat lamp worship,” said Karen.
“Their indoor quarters where the meerkats sleep are also heated to around 27ºC, toasty warm during chilly Dubbo nights.”
Taronga Western Plains Zoo has , 6 male and 6 female Meerkats, which on these cold wintery days can be seen in their exhibit under the warmth of these specially installed heat lamps.