Meerkats are small mammals that belong to the mongoose family, and are burrowing animals. They live in South Africa and many parts of the Kalahari Desert. Meerkats tend to be in a group, which contains 20 other meerkats, called a 'clan', 'mob' or 'gang'. Meerkats live between 12 and 14 years, however this can be cut short due to the fact that they are prey to eagles, falcons and jackals. There main diet consists of insects, therefore they are insectivores. Despite this they are also known to eat spiders, snakes, scorpions, lizards, millipedes, centipedes, plants and eggs. It has also been known for them to eat small birds and small mammals, but on rarer occasions. The reason they can eat snakes and scorpions is because they have adapted and become immune to the venom of these animals, unlike humans. For meerkats to scavenge this food without becoming it themselves, they have one member of their clan on sentry duty. This means that while the others forage, this meerkat stands up on its hind legs and scans the area. This usually lasts up to 1 hour. When all is calm, the meerkat on guard will make peeping noises, however when something is wrong, it will bark loudly or whistle, to alert the other members. A meerkat baby will not forage for food until it is 1 month old. However during this time it will shadow and older meerkat to see what needs to be done. Meerkats live in small underground tunnels, that have multiple entrances. They leave them only during the day. They live in these tunnels with the rest of their clan. Inside the clan is one alpha pair, who are generally dominant to all the others. The majority of the meerkats in the clan will be offspring from the alpha pair. They generally groom the alpha pair. They also do this after they have spent long periods apart.
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