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Zaphod the oldest meerkat at the KMP!




On February 12th, 2011, Zaphod (VVM032) is 4448 days old. 

With this, Zaphod has become the oldest meerkat the KMP researchers ever observed in their population. On this day he is overtaking Mabili (VDF005), the long-term dominant female of the Drie Doring group who held that title until she disappeared in January 2006. We congratulate Zaphod to this most amazing achievement - may he enjoy many more happy and healthy days!


Find below a profile of this most remarkable meerkat to celebrate this extraordinary day (words in bold refer to the questions of our Zaphod contest). Friends will find an even more detailled profile in the Friends Burrow (log in to see it).


We've also expanded our a range of Zaphod items in our Zazzle store - click here. There's a very special addition: Seen from afar it is "just" a picture of Zaphod. But look at it in detail and you'll see it is made up of thousands of tiny KMP meerkat photos in a mosaic collage. The entire KMP project history is rolled into our King - how much he must have seen in the past 12+ years!


Zaphod's life

Zaphod is born on December 9th, 1998, with two littermates. Their mother is Vivian (VVF001), the dominant female of the meerkat group with the same name; they form litter VV9805. His father is Stinker (VYM005), the dominant male.


The pups are named in February 1999: the female VVM031 becomes Rapunzel; male VVM032 is named Zaphod after a rather extrovert (yet two-headed) character from Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”; and VVM033 is named after Yossarian, the protagonist in “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller. Yossarian will keep Zaphod company until he disappears, whereas Rapunzel disperses with two sisters at the age of two years.


In 2000 Vivian dies, and her daughter Rhian takes dominance; the males intensify roving... Zaphod and Yossarian are separated from the main group for the first time in June 2000 with other males – but the splinter returns the same day. This is the starting signal for Zaphod to start roving, mostly at Young Ones. 12 months after his first encounter with their dominant female Morgause (VAF005), he is seen getting up with the group and mates with her.


On 27th June 2001, Zaphod joins 7 other Vivian males led by Izit (VVM021) and Basil (VVM015) for a roving expedition; they meet the foraging females of the Whiskers group whose males are away roving; the Vivian males immigrate, barring the way back for the Whiskers males.


Zaphod now engages in dominance fights. On 22nd September 2001, after a group split and a three-way dominance bid, the dominant couple Zazu (VVM027) and Risca (VWF004) are kicked out. Zaphod and Vialli (VWF012) emerge victorious, as the new Whiskers dominant couple. They mate the same day.


The life history file now gets quiet about Zaphod; he does not leave his position. In February 2002, Vialli disappears, and Flower (VWF026) takes over dominance; with her, he fathers his first offspring, litter VW0206. Zaphod doesn’t leave a trace in the life history until February 13th, 2003, when he is challenged by Alexander, and Yossarian takes it from there. By the next day, Yossarian is the new dominant male of the Whiskers.


Zaphod simply returns to his most favourite pastime as a bachelor: roving. He’s seen mating with the new dominant female of Young Ones, Veda (VYF095) on 22nd April, while all unrelated males are roving. He then returns home – and Zaphod is dominant at Whiskers three days later, after another ugly fight.


The life history does not mention him for years. He fathers most of Flower’s litters. His brothers disperse or disappear one after the other; Yossarian is the last Vivian-born male to go; he does not return from a roving expedition and is considered LSEEN in July 2006. Even after Flower’s death on 26th January 2007, Zaphod remains with his group that is now led by his niece Rocket Dog. Only on 7th June 2007 does he leave to go roving, and after his return on 9th, he is disposed by his nephew Zarathustra! On 15th July, Zaphod wins back dominance from Zarathustra. Yet he doesn’t stay for long. On 6th September, he leaves the Whiskers for good.


Zaphod is joined by five of his sons. The bachelor group is named the Incas, yet they are not an official group due their lack a dominant female. The rovers stay near Sox Dam until the end of September when they return to Aztecs and just immigrate there on 29th Sepember 2007. The Aztecs are led by Monkulus (VWF063), Zaphod’s niece, and all other group members are his offspring.


Zaphod is highly effective when it comes to finding succulent prey without too much effort; however, he also realises that begging food from Monkulus does the same trick! Despite his teeth starting to fall out, he doesn’t get less hungry, and retains a remarkable weight. On 21st August 2008 Zaphod becomes the oldest male ever observed at the project.


The life history is quiet again about Zaphod – yet not about his offspring. Several of his 39 sons and daughters have made it to dominant positions in their respective groups: Teabag and Biltong at Elveera, Hawkeye and Cruise at Baobab, Machu Pichu at Whiskers and PK, Ningaloo at Kung Fu, Flo and Billy at Van Helsing, Ella at Whiskers and Miles at Commandos. The longest tenure, so far, have Ella (since 23rd April 2008, 1025 days on 12-Feb-2011) and Ningaloo (since 28th March 2008, 1051 days); Zaphod’s own count is 2932 days as a dominant. Ella also produced the most pups, 35 so far.


When it comes to the number of life history entries, Zaphod is on 14th position overall, with 327 entries. He is still beaten by his brother Yossarian (379 entries) and his son Alonzo Mourning (VWM100, 359 entries).


On 12th February 2011, Zaphod breaks a most special record: he becomes the oldest meerkat ever observed at the project. This day he beats Mabili (VDF005), the longterm dominant female of Drie Doring who died on 19th January 2006 at the age of 4448 days (or a bit more than 12 years and two months). Being dominant – and taking it easy? – is the meerkat key to old age…


2012 Annual LH reports
20th Anniversary
Natural World: Meerkats
Swift Ernesto Update
Cuddle, dream, snuggle
2011 Annual LH reports
BBC Planet Earth Live
Meerkats 3D
Zaphod's last rest
Zurich enclosure
2010 Annual LH reports
Zaphod's big day!
Zaphod pictures
Zaphod's 12th Birthday
Meerkats go 3D
Kon'nichiwa Sobukwe
Zaphod's 11th Birthday
Lead the Meerkats!
Meerkat Manor 4 in UK
Grumpy's birthday
Chico's Dream
Zaphod's birthday
MM book - paperback
MM break
Marta Manser documentary
Meerkat Manor movie
Exhibition/book signing
Meerkat Manor book
Newslines archive



Vivian group in 2000 (Roberta Stacy)

In May 2004 (Tom Flower)

Flower & Zapod (Rob Sutcliffe)

In 2007 (Rob Sutcliffe)

10th birthday (Jess Isden)

Monkulus & Zaphod (Loretta Franklin)

11th birthday (Ashley Craig)

12th birthday (Ben Sadd)

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