PICTURES: Competition to name Lancaster meerkats
A competition will soon launch for members of the public to name nine meerkats who are settling into their new home at Williamson Park in Lancaster.
The meerkat enclosure at Williamson Park is open from 10am-5pm from April to September. Tickets can be bought via online at http://www.shopccc.co.uk/williamson-park-events--entrance-tickets-8-c.asp or on the door at the park.
Meerkats, also known as suricats, belong to the mongoose family. They are small in size and stand up to 30cm tall. They live in groups but each group can depend on size. Some can contain 20-50 members. Their lifespan is 12-14 years, in captivity. The groups are led by an alpha pair and usually the female meerkat is the most dominant. Most of the group members are either siblings or children of the alpha pair. When suspecting danger the meerkats stand on their hind legs to check their territory. One of the meerkat plays this role as guard or sentry. It stands propped up by its tail and acts as a lookout while the group searches for food.
The guard scans the area for any possible predators including hawks, eagles and snakes. If a predator is spotted it lets out a distinctive bark to warn the group.
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The meerkats are especially adapted to live in a harsh environment. Dark patches around their eyes allow them to be effective lookouts by reducing the glare of the sun. The meerkat is not endangered and is considered to be at a low risk of becoming endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.