In 2005, millions of TV watchers' hearts melted with the premiere of BBC America's Meerkat Manor and its intimate portrayal of the endearing yet sometimes vicious creatures.
If you want a glimpse of a meerkat mob in real life, you're in luck: Zoo Miami this week announced the birth of two adorable pups, a first for the zoo. You can see them in person or log on to watch the zoo's Meerkat Cam.
Last month, 8-year-old Yam Yam gave birth to the two babies. They haven't been named yet, and their genders are undetermined. Yam Yam lives with three male meerkats, any of which could have fathered the pups. Yam Yam came to the zoo from Busch Gardens in February 2012; the three males came from the Brevard Zoo in June 2018.
Of the three male meerkats — Gizmo, Diego, and Joe — Diego appears most attached to the babies, according to Ron Magill, the zoo's longtime communications director.
"He spends a lot of time with them," Magill tells New Times. "Diego seems to thoroughly enjoy being with them, keeping them warm, keeping them protected."
Photos of Diego and the babies show him looking like a proud parent.
"Anybody watching the mob for any period of time would think Diego is the mom," Magill says. The pups were born blind and opened their eyes for the first time last week. Their mom breastfeeds them, but the babies are beginning to wean and chase crickets and mealworms given to them by zoo staff. The pups haven't left their den much, but Magill says they're becoming adventuresome. They'll poke their little heads out of the den and scurry back inside. Staffers watch them from behind the exhibit.
According to National Geographic , meerkats live in groups that vary in size from three to 50 members. Every member of the mob helps to gather food, keep an eye out for predators, and take care of the young in their desert environments in southern Africa.
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Meerkats are sometimes photographed standing on their hind legs. Some of them serve as lookouts in their mob, keeping watch for birds of prey and other threats.
Magill photographed one of the pups standing for the first time.
"It looks like he's giving a high-five," he says. "They're starting to exhibit their natural behaviors."