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Meerkat logoMeerkat Lookout

Extremely Not Boring

Quick Facts:

  • Located in Grasslands Africa!
  • Opened April 2003
  • Home to two mobs of meerkats

MeerkatSpecial Features:

Exhibit Floor

The bottom of the exhibit floor is poured concrete, so the meerkats cannot tunnel out of the exhibit.  The substrate is a special material that allows the meerkats to dig, but will not hold together enough  for a tunnel system to be built.  We don't want the animals to tunnel because it makes it harder for us to take care of them and we wouldn't have regular access to them for treatment of any medical problems, routine veterinary care, etc. If the meerkats were allowed to tunnel, the tunnels could collapse and harm them.  When it rains, the tunnels can also flood.

Heated Rocks

There are two heated rocks in the exhibit.  This allows the meerkats to be in their exhibit longer during cooler months.

Feeding Tubes

There are feeding tubes built into the trees in the exhibit.  Mealworms and crickets are placed in the tubes in the morning and they crawl out during the day for the meerkats to eat.

Meerkat keeping watchAbout Meerkats:

Meerkats are tiny, yet amazing creatures that live in a group called a mob.  They are close relatives of the mongoose family.  They have a grey or brown colored coat, and a pointy head with a long nose.  Meerkats eat insects, scorpions, small mammals and reptiles.  Scorpions are a dinner favorite.  Luckily meerkats are immune to the scorpion's poison as well as some venomous snakes.  Meerkats inhabitat the dry scorching deserts and grassland area in South Africa.

Social Structure:

Each meerkat has a job to do within the mob, and they depend on each other for survival and display a remarkable degree of teamwork.  They hunt together, share food, protect each other, attack enemies together and play with and groom each other.  Each adult even takes turns being a baby-sitter to watch after young meerkats.

Keeping Watch:

Zoo visitors will often see a meerkat on guard duty watching over the mob.  The guard stands on its hind legs and peers out over its territory on the lookout for predators.  Meerkats have keen eyesight, and the dark patches around their eyes act as built-in sunglasses allowing them to see better on bright, sunny days.  When a meerkat perceives a threat to the mob, it emits a warning call that tells the others there is danger nearby.  If time allows, the meerkats will escape to their underground burrows, however, if escape is not possible, they will all come together. hissing and jumping at the predator in an effort to scare it away.

Tips When Visiting:

  • Visitors can learn more about meerkats during a close encounter program at 1:30 p.m. daily in front of their exhibit (Memorial Day through Labor Day).  Close Encounters are led by Knoxville Zoo interpreters and are enhanced by using biofacts and interactive activities to educate and interest visitors.
  • The meerkats do not like the rain and will go into their tubes when the rain showers become heavy.
  • Meerkats are not tolerant of the cold, so they will not be on exhibit unless it is sunny and the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.