Extreme Home Makeover: Meerkat Edition
The new year means new beginnings. These slender-tailed meerkats kick off 2020 with a brand new home!
To fully understand how the ‘mood swings of these tiny creatures could result in a R60 000 improvement project, we need to understand how they came to reside at Cango Wildlife Ranch under the care of mammal and bird curator, Delano Mulder.
If you have been to Cango Wildlife Ranch during the past couple of months, you might have noticed some renovations taking place in the central area. The enclosure that has been undergoing a face-lift is none other than the meerkat enclosure. Our gang of beloved Slender-tails are currently residing in our care centre whilst we complete the makeover.
The exhibit renovation came as a necessity due to the meerkats’ complicated social dynamics. Although they appear simply adorable, these feisty little mammals pack a mean bite paired with quite the attitude! To fully understand how the ‘mood swings of these tiny creatures could result in a R60 000 improvement project, we need to understand how they came to reside at Cango Wildlife Ranch under the care of mammal and bird curator, Delano Mulder.
“Meerkat babies are adorable, loving and irresistible to cuddle. It is easy to understand the urge to want a meerkat pup as a pet. However, once grown up, these charming fluffballs can turn into destructive and aggressive ruffians.” Meerkats require specialized enrichment and a more natural environment where they can dig, forage and roam about, and sadly often, most meerkats who are kept as pets are not afforded these basic necessities. Owners who were once smitten by these perfect little “Timone’s” are later left frustrated with bite marks, destroyed furniture, damaged carpets and the foul smell of territorial scent marking. "In just 2 hours, a meerkat can remove the grouting between tiles.” Ironically, this is all very natural behaviour!
Unfortunately, tamed meerkats can never be released back into the wild, as they see humans as a food source and do not possess the proper social skills to survive in a wild gang; we at Cango Wildlife, therefore commit to provide these animals, and several other species from the illegal pet-trade, a forever home. This is exactly how Bam-Bam, Dusk, Macy and Skye wound up with us. Willow, River, and Storm were born to Macy and Bam-Bam… a lovely ‘tale of tails’ and love at first site. Shortly after becoming parents, Macy and Bam-Bam had a domestic dispute, and alas, their whirlwind romance came to an end. As females are the dominant counterparts in the meerkat world (and a few others), Macy won and Bam-Bam was left with a rather bruised ego.
As time passed, the meerkat disagreements, throughout the gang, continued to escalate and become more frequent. For the own well-being, Delano was forced to split the gang numerous times in order to keep the peace.
In the wild, serious fights like these are meant to force young boys out of the gang to join other groups or to form their own. After much trial and error, Bam-Bam, Dusk, River and Willow settled into a peaceful group while Skye and Storm formed their own alliance. This meant that the meerkats would require two separate enclosures.
The original neighbours of the meerkats were a family 4 porcupines and after the successful move of the giant rodent household to a larger enclosure, the two adjacent habitats were the answer to our prayers! The revamp of the first enclosure could not begin until we demolished 90% of the old exhibit. We then poured in new cement, plastered the walls, built new night houses, and did this all in the theme of large termite mounds which were finished off with a naturally themed paint job.
Sadly, due to funding constraints, Skye and Storm cannot enjoy their new habitat just yet; and they will be residing in our care centre for a little bit longer. They will continue to receive a lot of love, great food and exciting enrichment every day while we raise the fund for their new home.
In closing, we just want to thank the generous animal lovers who made phase one possible! Janet Martyn (donated R40 000) and Quintin Morgan (donated R2500) – we are so grateful for your generosity, as are our Slender-tailed family. Although there are many people to thank, a special mention goes out to Delano Mulder who had his sweat, blood and tears poured into the designing and building of the enclosure.
Watch how Bam-Bam and his crew discover their new home with sheer excitement!
Don’t forget folks; Meerkats are beyond cute, but they are not ideal pets! Should you ever come across a meerkat in distress, please call an expert person/facility to ensure the long-term wellbeing of these precious creatures.