The Afrikaans name Meerkat refers to either the Yellow Mongoose or the Suricate, and is a derivate of a Dutch terms denoting a diet of ants. The Suricate is most frequently seen balanced on its rear legs and tail, while surveying its surroundings. The buff-brown to silvery body has rows of reddish-brown spots along the back.
The eyes are distinctively dark-ringed. Head and body measures 250-310 mm and tail 200-240 mm. An adult weighs about 620-960 grams. They have dark-tipped, short-haired, tapered tails. Hindquarters are stockier than forequarters. The head is broad and rounded, with a sharp-pointed muzzle.
Suricates feed on insects, small rodents, geckos and snakes which they catch with lightning swiftness. Pregnant and lactating females forage more intensively than other members of the group, to meet the increased energy budget associated with pregnancy or lactation. There are no differences between the diets of different sex or age groups.
Mature females practice a seasonal breeding order which, amongst others, allow for no more than one female to breed at the same time within the same group. Breeding females can produce between one and three litters per year, but breeding intervals are rainfall dependent. Births peak between January and March. The entire group participates in the care and maintenance of young. While the pack is out foraging for food, one helper remains at the den to tend to the young.
Suricates are normally territorial. Average group size is ten members, comprised of equal numbers of males and females. They are also diurnal, and take refuge in burrows at night or when threatened.
Where they are found
Endemic to the Subregion. In South Africa the Suricate has a westerly distribution, ranging from the North-West Province, southwards to the Free State through the Karoo almost to Cape Town, and westwards to the Atlantic seaboard.