Three meerkats were born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in D.C. earlier this month, an event the zoo hasn’t seen for 16 years.
When keepers at the zoo’s Small Mammal House came into work on May 10, a news release said they found that Sadie, a 5-year-old meerkat, had given birth to the pups overnight.
It was Sadie’s first time giving birth, while the pups’ 6-year-old father Frankie had previously reproduced at the Los Angeles Zoo in California, according to the zoo.
In their natural habitat, meerkat pups stay underground for about three weeks. Though the animals’ enclosure at the zoo has a tubing system to allow meerkats to burrow — Sadie took a different approach.
“The day Sadie gave birth, she surprised keepers by bringing her pups into the main exhibit space,” a news release from the zoo said.
Sadie, her sister Stella, and Frankie all came to the zoo in November 2022.
Zoo staff said Sadie has been nursing her pups, who look healthy and strong. The three pups, whose sexes haven’t been determined yet, are beginning to open their eyes and explore their habitat, the zoo said.
Sadie, Stella and Frankie are described by their keepers as “sociable, energetic and inquisitive.”
“Frankie is laid-back and will take food gently from keepers’ hands,” the zoo said. “Sadie and Stella are quite bold and readily approach keepers.”
Zoo visitors can see the meerkat mob at the Small Mammal House. A meerkat mob refers to a group of up to 30 meerkats that live together, though the zoo said groups are usually around 10 to 15.
Meerkats live in dry open plains, savannahs and grasslands in four African countries — Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meerkats are not at risk of becoming endangered or extinct.
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