The meerkat alpha female recently gave birth to five pups. Before giving birth, she retreated to the burrows dug by the small predators in their outdoor enclosure. Not long ago, she presented the five new pups for the first time to pleasantly surprised visitors. All group members play a role in raising the little ones. Meerkats are known for their efficient division of roles within the group, with group members regularly alternating between tasks. For example, the group members take turns in taking on the role of babysitter, while another meerkat is on the lookout and yet another animal is collecting food.
As the young meerkats get older, they gradually learn what they need to survive. For example, older group members demonstrate what is edible and what is not and how to overpower a scorpion. It has been observed that an adult meerkat first bites off the poison sting of the scorpion, and then the animal is killed by the young. In this way, the young meerkats learn essential skills to hunt successfully themselves and spot possible dangers in time.
When the meerkat on guard thinks it has spotted danger, it will sound a cry of alarm, at which point all group members will seek refuge as quickly as possible in the burrow system, which is equipped with several entrances and exits. Meerkats have dark spots around the eyes that serve as sunglasses for when they are on the lookout and have to stare into the sun for a long time. Danger usually comes from above; birds of prey sometimes try to outwit an unwary meerkat.
Meerkats appeal to many people's imagination as charismatic predators who seem to be active almost all the time. The efficient division of roles within the group and the taking turns among the group members also arouse admiration and curiosity. Only the alpha male and the alpha female have pups together, and their older offspring play an active role in the upbringing. Thanks to the mutual division of tasks and the turn taking, the alpha female does not have to focus continuously on the education of her pups. This natural group behaviour creates a system with flexible all-rounders, each of whom can perform a variety of tasks satisfactorily.