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As they forage in broad daylight in the open and away from the den, meerkats are susceptible to attack, especially by jackals and raptors.
While digging, they glance around frequently for these predators. The prospect of being taken by surprise is met by sentinel behaviour.
One meerkat takes up a raised position on a termite mound or tree branch, where it sits upright and keeps watch. The team are aware someone is always on lookout duty, giving them more time to dig and forage for food. If the sentinel sees a predator approaching, it alerts the others with a high-pitched call, and the pack scatters for cover. Pack members always take turns to look out for one another, staying safe from harm.
The Meerkat, or suricate (Suricata suricatta) is a burrowing member of the mongoose family (Herpestidae).
They have a slender body with small, pointed faces, tiny ears, and black eye patches.
Body length is about 29 cm (11 inches),
Meerkats have smooth, pointed tails about 19 cm long.
Colour varies from dark to grizzled light gray or tan, with broad dark bars across the back and a black-tipped tail.
Adults weigh less than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds).
Unmistakable in their upright "sentinel" posture when watching for predators
Meerkats live in cooperative packs of up to 25
Meerkats shelter in burrow systems
Several levels of tunnels and chambers extend to 1.5 metres below ground, each home range containing about five warrens.
Meerkat packs spend the night inside, and their pups are born there.
They retreat into their tunnels for an afternoon rest to avoid the heat of midday. While the temperature may be 38 °C (100 °F) on the surface, it is 23 °C (73 °F) a metre below.
Beetles, Caterpillars, Termites, Spiders, Scorpions, Lizards and Rodents.
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica