Hunter Valley Zoo welcomes new litter of meerkat pups

Zookeeper Danielle Rae with the baby meerkats.

Zookeeper Danielle Rae with the baby meerkats.

When these five brothers and sisters were born they weighed a minuscule 40 grams.

Three weeks later the baby meerkats have more than doubled in size and will soon be ready for visitors.

The meerkat pups were born on August 2 at Hunter Valley Zoo.

“When they were born they had no fur and their eyes were closed,” zookeeper Danielle Rae said.

“Now their eyes are open, they have a fine layer of fur and they have teeth and claws.

“Already from this age there is one that is really adventurous.”

The meerkat pups will not be named until they are six months old because it is difficult to tell their ­gender until this age.

Meerkat pups at Hunter Valley Zoo

This is the second litter for mother meerkat Savannah and it is also the biggest, as meerkats usually give birth to two or three pups.

“They have really good sense of smell,” Ms Rae said.

“They use scent for recognition and that is how they can tell they are related.”

Their older brother from the ­mother’s first litter of babies has already taken on baby sitting duties and helps carry the pups around.

The babies are still on a milk diet and will start to forage for food when they turn one-month-old.

Visitors will be able to see them regularly some time during the beginning of September, but a lucky few may spot them as they inquisitively check-out the meerkat enclosure.

While meerkats may look cute they are intelligent and have a complicated hierarchy within their community.

Meerkats have 30 different warning calls which they use to communicate between each other when there is a threat present.

“You will hear the pups call to their parents to let them know they are OK,” Ms Rae said.

The meerkat community will all look after the newborn pups, but the dominant female in the group will be the only one to procreate.

If a lower-ranking female meerkat has pups the dominant female will eat the young to enforce her position at the top of the gang.

Visitors do not need to worry though because none of the other meerkats are carrying babies.

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