First popularized by the comical sidekick Timon in Disney’s “The Lion King,” and then celebrated in the Animal Planet television series “Meerkat Manor” (2005-2009), meerkats are members of the mongoose family that live in social “mobs” or “gangs” of up to 30 members in burrows in the Kalahari Desert, in the southern African nations of Botswana and South Africa.
No mere cats, meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are fascinating for living in structured but cooperative societies, including a foraging strategy where adults take turns standing guard upright on their hind feet, watching for predators, while the others eat. As the popular “Meerkat Manor” television series showed, the family-based “mobs” are not lacking in daily drama – from internal relationship issues to battles with other “mobs” encroaching on their territory to the ever-present fear of jackals and eagles.
The exhibit features six sibling meerkats – three males, three females – born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their Maritime Aquarium habitat offers windows into their underground burrows, so all meerkat activity is within view. And there is a viewing bubble, so visitors can stand up right among the meerkats.
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THE MARITIME AQUARIUM AT NORWALK, 10 N. Water Street, Norwalk, CT; (203) 852-0700, www.MaritimeAquarium.org. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (Closed only Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day) The only Aquarium focused on Long Island Sound presents sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles, jellyfish and more than 100 other species from Long Island Sound and its watershed.
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