The world’s oldest zoo has declared its cute colony of meerkats its visitors’ favourite animals.
Footage released by Austria’s Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna to celebrate their status shows the adorable animals in action in their enclosure.
Several can be seen on guard duty, standing on their hind legs scouring the landscape for danger and potential predators.
They do not even slack off when a keeper brings along a snack of juicy grubs for the rest of the colony to tuck into.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the zoo on 10th November, saying: “The lively meerkats are among the most popular zoo animals at Schoenbrunn Zoo.
“Together with the colobus monkeys, they live in an enclosure in the historic monkey house.”
Zookeeper Melanie Toetzl said: “Meerkats are very social animals and live together in colonies.
“We have six individuals here in the zoo, with a dominant female leading the group.
“Their diet consists primarily of insects and other small animals as well as vegetables.
“But the small predators also spend a lot of time digging underground passages and burrows, into which they can retreat in case of danger.”
The zoo also said in its statement: “The alert meerkats are also known for standing erect on their hind legs to keep an eye out for predators like raptors.”
Iris Starnberger, a research associate for species protection and research at the zoo, added: “Recent research by the University of Vienna, carried out at Schönbrunn Zoo, shows that the animals take turns taking on the role of guardians – although some animals more often than others.
“These are then considered so-called ‘super guardians’. The meerkats in zoos behave very similarly to their conspecifics in their natural home, the African savannah.”
The meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a type of mongoose found in southern Africa.
They are known to be very social beings, living in tightly-knit groups. Members of the species will typically look after pups belonging to other meerkats.
Their relatively small size is misleading, with meerkats able to fight off deadly snakes including cobras and other predators, thanks to their lightning-fast reflexes.
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