NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville Zoo’s meerkat mob has seven members. All were born at the Nashville Zoo except for the mom, Victoria.
“Victoria, our dominant female, is very vivacious. She’s in your business all the time and wants to know what you’re doing. The rest of them are pretty submissive,” said Jessica Hankins. “Victoria’s definitely got the biggest personality, but they all have one.”
Hankins is the Nashville Zoo Lead Primate Keeper. She demonstrated how they target train with the animals.
“They’ll put their nose on the target wherever we ask them to. That can be very useful for ultrasound and x-ray training,” she described. “We position them in different areas and places for medical care and it makes it easier and less stressful and keeps them mentally active.”
Once they lock onto the target, she throws them a worm or two for a treat.
“Meerkats are carnivores. They get a lot of fruits and vegetables as well,” she explained. “They’ll eat anything, but their favorite food is worms, mealworms, wax worms, crickets, minnows for a special treat. They eat usually two times a day.”
In the wild, meerkats are not considered endangered, but they are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP).
“Meerkats are least concerned when it comes to their population. But, we do want to make sure we keep the genetic diversity up, so that’s why we have SSP for them.”
Hankins says they have a very active social life in their group. “They’re standing in what’s called a Sentry. But, usually, one or two of them will look out for anything crazy and make a specific noise to alert the others. Then they all dart in the tunnels.”
Even though these guys live at the Nashville Zoo and not Southern African, their wild side still comes out.
“I love this exhibit. It’s six feet deep, so the meerkats can really use their natural behaviors to dig these deep beautiful tunnels that no one can see,” Hankins continues, “There’s a very intricate system under here that we don’t even understand, so it’s perfect for them. It’s the best exhibit for them to be meerkats.”
You can catch a Meerkat Keeper Talk at the zoo on Saturdays, Sundays, and Thursdays.