Meerkat (or suricata) at the Auckland Zoo (New Zealand)
Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family, which are mainly found in Africa.
Meerkats live in one of the world's harshest environments - the desert. Water is scarce, so they rarely drink. They instead find moisture in roots, plants and insects. Living in underground burrows is cooler and provides some protection from predators. Colonies may number from 10 to 30 animals. Emphasis is on teamwork and cooperation - this is how the group survives. Sharing and caring, everyone does their duty.
"Meerkat" is a loanword from Afrikaans. The name has a Dutch origin, but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat refers to the "guenon",
a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word "meerkat" is Dutch for "lake cat", but although the suricata is a feliform, it is not of the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit
markaţa (monkey), perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor on board a Dutch East India Company ship. The traders of the Dutch East India Company were likely familiar with monkeys, but the Dutch settlers attached the name to the wrong animal at the Cape.
The suricata is called "stokstaartje" (little stick-tail) in Dutch.
- Matthijs van Wageningen
- Created on
- Tuesday 12 November 2002
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