Emergence, first burrow move

Drie Doring VD0603 litter emerging

Drie Doring VD0603 litter emerging

Nomads burrow move

Nomads burrow move

Meerkat pups first emerge from their birth burrow at the age of 2-3 weeks. They weigh approx. 100 g at this stage. They will stay at the burrow, being guarded by babysitters. In most cases the group will move to another, clean burrow after the pups emerged, carrying the pups along. Pups are given their ID codes by the KMP researchers when they emerge; pups of habituated groups are not afraid of humans.

Newborn pup

Infanticide (© C. Rayner 2006)

Infanticide (© C. Rayner 2006)

The first four days are the most dangerous time in the life of a meerkat: Litters are often killed by other pregnant meerkat females, who want to raise the chances of survival for their own pups. Infanticides are less likely to occur after the first four days; strong females thus evict other pregnant females to keep their litters safe. Furthermore, babysitters stay with the pups to protect them. The pups’ eyes are closed before they leave the burrow. The pups are nursed by their mother, and in many cases, other females will also lactate to the pups, especially if they just aborted or lost their own litter.

Gestation

Pregnant Punk (VZZF044)

Pregnant Punk (VZZF044)

Gestation (pregnancy) in meerkats takes 70 days (10 weeks). The female usually gives birth at night, in a burrow. The litters range from one to an average of 3-4 pups. The biggest litter observed had seven pups – even though meerkats have six nipples only.