EDMONTON – Timon — the loveable character from Disney’s The Lion King — made the species famous, and now a group of meerkats have become one of Edmonton Valley Zoo’s most popular attractions.
Eight meerkats are now calling the zoo home, after arriving in the city from Prague this spring. The five males and three females spent 45 days in quarantine, getting used to their environment, and went on display in June.
“They are so popular amongst our visitors,” Wade Krasnow, the zoo’s team leader of animal care said of the curious creatures.
WATCH: Raw video of Edmonton Valley Zoo’s newest animals
Each of the eight meerkats cost the zoo $1,500. And getting them to Canada wasn’t a simple task.
“These guys are not allowed into Canada,” Krasnow explained. “So I had to apply for an exemption permit simply because… they could be a pest, an invasive species.”
Part of the mongoose family, meerkats come from the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. They live an average of 10 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
While the females are often slightly larger than the males, full-grown meerkats usually weigh between 1.4 and 2.1 pounds.
Led by an alpha male and alpha female, Krasnow says meerkats usually live in groups of 60 to 70.
“They’re very good to each other when they’re living in a family group, but if they see a rival gang they are quite aggressive towards each other.”
Their diet consists mostly of insects, birds, eggs, vegetation and other mammals.
The meerkats will be on display at the Edmonton Valley Zoo year-round; they will be moved into a heated indoor facility in the winter.