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Meerkat triple treat at Auckland Zoo

Auckland City Council
Media release

31 January 2008

Meerkat triple treat at Auckland Zoo

For the first time, Auckland Zoo has welcomed the arrival of baby meerkats.

Triplets, born three weeks ago to first-time parents Umi and Mbembe (estimated to each weigh just 200 grams) have now begun venturing out of their burrow to explore the outside world.

While the zoo has held meerkats since 1991, its meerkat “mob” traditionally comprised a mix of hand-reared and parent-reared animals. This is considered one of the contributing factors to a lack of breeding in the past.

However, that changed last September when young South African-born sisters Umi and Kulu arrived from Wellington Zoo and were introduced to males Mbembe and Tabari. Dominant female Umi wasted little time in selecting her preferred mate, Mbembe (pronounced ”Imbimbee”).

“Meerkats have an incredibly complex and fascinating social structure. It’s been a real privilege for us to watch the group hierarchy sort itself out, and to now welcome these three beautiful kits,” says Auckland Zoo carnivore keeper Justine Woosnam.

“Mbembe and Umi are proving to be great parents. As you would see in the wild, Umi is spending most of her time on sentry duty and finding food to satisfy her voracious appetite, while she continues to milk-feed the kits. Dad Mbembe is very much the full-time baby-sitter,” says Ms Woosnam.

As keepers are maintaining a very hands-off approach, the sex of the triplets is not yet known. As the kits become more active and stay outside for longer periods, staff expect to be able to confirm their sex in the coming week.

It is common for breeding meerkats to breed within quick succession. It is highly likely that Umi could be pregnant and give birth in another 70 days.

“If Umi has a further litter, her young will play a key role in helping to take care of and rear them,” says Ms Woosnam.

Along with couple Kulu and Tabari, Auckland Zoo also holds two hand-reared females and a non-breeding male. The zoo is part of an Australasian regional breeding programme for meerkats, coordinated by a studbook keeper for the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria.

Ends


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