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Pup Frenzy Contest
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The meerkat pups are out now, in the Kalahari, after a season of plenty - and the FKMP celebrated this with the Pup Frenzy contest.

 

Five gift pup memberships were awarded to the five daily winners, just in time before "Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins" and Meerkat Manor Season 4 (US) and Season 3 (UK) start... 

 

We thus welcomed the following winners to our FKMP burrow, as pup Friends:

 

  • Deb (May 18th)
  • Halee (May 19th)
  • Debbie (May 20th)
  • Daisy Jane (May 21st)
  • Christopher (May 22nd)

 

Congratulations to the winners!

 

If you're not amongst them, please come back to this page, or visit the gift membership site, as there are occasional gift memberships to be had!

 


Question 5 - May 22nd
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This is a very special day
When we first come out to play

 


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Answer to question 5: Pup emergence
View pictures of this here or here.
 
Some facts about Pup emergence, based on the KMP research:

  • Pups first emerge from the burrow 2 to 3 weeks after birth; they weigh approximately 100g when they first emerge.
  • A babysitter remains with them, in the burrow, while the rest of the family forages. Babysitters sometimes risk their lives to protect the pups against predators or rival meerkat groups.
  • Until emergence, pups are only fed with milk - by their mother, but often also by wet-nurses; some females even start to "allo-lactate", without having pups themselves.
  • After emergence, pups usually stay near their burrow for another week, still guarded by babysitters. The group usually moves burrow during this time, carrying the pups along; the birth burrow is too dirty by then.
  • The pups then start to forage with the group, begging for food from their older siblings.
  • Next to their own family members, researchers are the first beings pups see when they climb out of the burrow. In a habituated group, pups usually need no habituation, since they learn that their family is comfortable with the presence of the researchers.
  • Pups are given their ID codes once they emerge. Names are usually only given after the gender of the pups is established.
  • Read more here.


Question 4 - May 21st
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Sitting on some hair, I watch the air
For birds of prey, way up there

 

 


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Answer to question 4: Sentinel on someone’s head or shoulder
 
View pictures of this behaviour here or here.
 
Some facts about sentinel behaviour, from the KMP research:

  • One individual typically watches out for predators while the rest of the group is foraging. Most of the time these sentinels announce their guarding duty with special vocalizations.
  • Meerkats regularly go on raised guard, and act as sentinels. Being up high allows a meerkat on guard to see far and wide.
  • Raised guards can be on bushes, trees, termite mounds, or man-made structures. Sometimes the highest point around is on top of a volunteer, researcher or visitor’s head.
  • The average time span for a sentry shift is about 20 minutes after a meerkat has fed and is satisfied.
  • A sentry calls to the foraging members to let them know all is well, so that they can focus on foraging. This is called the Watchman’s Song. The sentinel may remain on his outlook for a few minutes, calling softly to calm his family - but excite the human!
  • Read more here.


Question 3 - May 20th
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I am very small and have no claw
Begging like a pup, that’s my law.

 

 


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Answer for question 3: Fluffernutter

View pictures of Fluffernutter here or here.

 

Some facts about Fluffernutter:

  • Fluffernutter is a male born to dominant female Grumpy, in the Moomins group on 15 Dec 2005. He was given the ID# VMMM031. He had three litter mates:  Rocky, Mich and Penn.
  • Fluffernutter was born with no claws and no canines.
  • His canines grew in later and his paws became calloused enough to dig in soft sand or a spot where another meerkat had started to dig before.
  • Due to his small size and loud begging calls his family continued to feed him as a juvenile and young adult, and he made it through his first Kalahari winter.
  • He became a dedicated, but often unsuccessful forager - but he was the project's No. 1 in food competitions.
  • Fluffernutter dispersed in October 2007 after a group split, together with several siblings. The splinter group was later seen some 10 km away from the main group, but they could not be followed. Due to the plentiful foraging conditions in summer 2007/2008, it is assumed that the splinter group, and with them Fluffernutter, fared well. However, they still remain to be observed again.
  • His dye marks were right thigh, tail base, but they may be grown out by now.

 

Birth defects occasionally occur in the meerkat population, but not frequently. Douglas (VYM061) had rudimentary claws only, but he was one of the more successful males, even becoming dominant. There was one litter in the Frisky group with deformed ears. There is currently one meerkat with a birth defect in the population, Beatrice (VCDF019); she has seven instead of six nipples.

 


Question 2 - May 19th
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One harsh, noisy call
made these meerkats run, then stand tall.

 


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Answer to question 2:  Aerial predator alarm call
See pictures of this behaviour here or here.

 

Here are some facts about Aerial predator alarm calls, based on KMP research:

  • Meerkats live under a high predation pressure and have evolved an alarm call system to encode information about both the type of approaching predator (for example, eagle/aerial predator or jackal/terrestrial predator) and the urgency of the threat (for example, close or far).
  • The “harsh, noisy call” is the vocalisation for an eagle alarm. The massive martial eagle tends to get the most frantic alarm even from great distance.
  • Binocular and color vision enables meerkats to spot birds of prey from a distance of more than thousand feet away.
  • When an aerial predator is spotted the alarm is raised and all meerkats sprint for nearby bolt holes. Meerkats know in which direction they have to run when an alarm call is given, without scanning the area for visual or olfactory cues of shelters. As meerkats have more than 1000 boltholes in their territory, they seem to have detailed knowledge of the direction and the distance of specific locations. If they are not near any bolt holes they will lie on the ground and depend on camouflage. They also take cover in thorny bushes where the birds dare not venture.

 

Videos:

Click to see video of a pup responding to an alarm call signalling an aerial predator close by:

Listen to some pup and adult alarm calls given in response to an aerial predator far away:

Videos taken by Linda Hollén, University of Zurich - click here to read more.
 


Question 1 - May 18th
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I’m a baby, you are not. My job is to cry a lot!
 


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Answer to question 1: Pups begging for food.

View pictures of this behaviour here or here.

 

Facts about Pups begging for food based on KMP research: 

  • Pups and juvenile meerkats beg for food from more experienced meerkats (named helpers).
  • Helpers can be older siblings, but also unrelated meerkats living in the same group.
  • Both males and females contribute to feeding the group's pups, though males tend to contribute less; females tend to favour female pups.
  • A helper reacts to the incessant "repeat calls" of the pup by providing prey to the pup. Once a pup sees a helper with food, it switches to excited "high-pitched" calls, enticing the helper to bring prey to him instead of a sibling.
  • Pups have to learn which prey is best for them; helpers actively teach the young by presenting them with food prepared according to the pup's experience: an unexperienced pup will get a dead scorpion, while an experienced pup first has to tackle the live scorpion!
  • It was also shown that well-nourished pups invest more time in foraging for themselves, instead of begging - and the practise they gain makes them more successful foragers once they are adults!
  • Read more by clicking here.

 


Here is how it works
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And these are the rules - by participating in the Pup Frenzy contest, you agree to these terms:

  • The first person to submit the correct answer to a daily contest question wins a free pup membership for one year, and will be able to choose one of the meerkat groups available at the launch of the contest (click here).
  • There will be one free membership per day the contest runs, i.e. 5 days. If no one submits the correct answer, the contest will be extended for another day, until all five prizes are won.
  • Each person can participate only once per day; if someone participates more than once, only the first submission will be counted.
  • The same person cannot win more than once; in this case the second of the day wins.
  • The contest is open only to people who are not yet Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project.
  • The winners will be presented on the kalahari-meerkats.com website.
  • By submitting a reply, you agree to comply to the FKMP small print (see here) in case you win a membership.
  • The prizes are not paid in cash, and there is no recourse to correspondence or legal action. The risk of not being able to participate, for technical or other reasons, remains with the participant, not with the FKMP.


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