Africa’s charming celebrities!

by Johan Kruger

Artush/Zoonar/Thinkstock | Igor Stevanovic/iStockphoto.com/thinkstock

Just after sunrise, a visitor to the Kalahari desert is certain to spot one of southern Africa’s most endearing celebrities—the meerkats. Scrutinizing the savannah scrublands, the keen observer is likely to see a dozen or more of these smallish animals with long, slender bodies. They ‘sit’ (or stand) upright on their hind legs, using their tail like the third leg of a tripod. Their unmistakeable upright stance, sitting together peering over the surrounding landscape, has become an African icon.

The patient sightseer’s curiosity is sure to be rewarded by the sight of the warmed-up clan’s brief morning play time. They wrestle and groom one another before taking off in search of a juicy insect for breakfast.

As the gang disappears in the distance, the onlooker might have a final glimpse of another charming sight of the African wildlife scene. This time, it is several meerkat sentries taking turns to stop and briefly sit upright, ready to warn the rest of the clan of aerial and other predators.

Etymology and Origin1

‘Meerkat’ seems to be of French derivation, borrowed from the Dutch, likely referring to a ‘lake cat’. However, meerkats are neither in the cat family, nor are they attracted to lakes.2

The meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is classified in the suborder Feliformea (‘cat-like’ meat eaters) and family Herpestidae (mongoose-like animals). There are three known subspecies, all indigenous to southern Africa. While evolutionists claim the first feliforms appeared in the middle Eocene (‘dated’ at about 42 mya), a ‘common ancestor’ of this particular group has not been found in the fossil record….

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