The keepers were first alerted to the birth of meerkat pups by faint squeaking coming from the enclosure. And for weeks, this remained the only sign of the new offspring. Since then, the pups have emerged outside where they can be seen by visitors. The newborns have just undergone their first health check: the veterinary team confirmed that the pups are developing well and their weights of 520 grams within the normal range. The twins have now been given the names Xola and Xamari. The meerkat’s well-kept secret was brought to light with arrival of the late spring sunshine. Born at the end of April, the pups, who had been kept in the burrow by their mum for the first few weeks after birth, began to stick their noses out for the first time. Since then, visitors have been able to spot the tiny youngsters stepping out with the adults in the enclosure. The mum is doing a great job in taking care of her young. Meerkat pups are born blind, deaf and almost hairless, and weigh around 25 to 36 grams at birth.

In the weeks following the birth, all the meerkats withdrew to their burrows and could only be seen singly or in pairs in the enclosure. The keepers also kept their distance in order to give the new family some privacy. Dr Christine Gohl, head veterinarian at Hellabrunn Zoo, shed some light on the pups’ development by determining their health status and gender. The result: a boy and a girl. Visitors to Hellabrunn Zoo can look forward to observing the fascinating family life of these small, highly social mongooses.

"We are delighted about the first meerkat birth at the zoo in 32 years!" says zoo director Rasem Baban. "The four adults came to us as a new group in June 2022, so we were very excited about what the future will bring. The birth of young animals is always a good indicator that the group dynamics are right, the animals get along well together, are cared for in a species-appropriate manner and feel at home in their enclosure. We will continue to monitor the youngsters closely and hope that they continue to develop well.”

Girl power rules

In their natural habitat, females are the dominant individuals in a group. A dominant female will decide who to mate with, usually by looking for the strongest partner. This alpha pair will then be the only ones to have offspring. After a gestation period of about 77 days, a litter of pups is born. It takes 14 days before the blind pups can open their eyes. They will then emerge from the burrow and follow the family members outside. All the animals in the group help care for and protect the young. This makes it difficult to determine who the father could be.

“Last autumn we were able to observe how our three males courted the female," says Carsten Zehrer, head of zoology and curator at Hellabrunn Zoo. “There was a lot of fighting, which the female watched rather quietly, before choosing her favourite. Such disputes over hierarchy can sometimes end bloody, since meerkats, being predators, have sharp and very pointed teeth. After the death of the first offspring in the new group, we are very pleased about the two healthy pups and excited about their development."

Reproductive family

But even as the zoo and its guests are getting to know the meerkat twins born in April, a new litter of pups has just been born. The latest birth was discovered for the first time last week. There is still no information about the sex and health of the litter born in August. Here, too, the group has been left alone to allow for family privacy. Details of the most recent newborns will be published at a later date. A visit to the meekat enclosure is therefore worthwhile. Visitors can meet the family of adorable animals and catch a glimpse of the pups in the Giraffe Savannah.

[Translate to English:] Das Erdmännchen-Jungtier bei der Erstuntersuchung.
[Translate to English:] Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn