Zoos often take precautions to accommodate animals that cannot survive in a non-native climate. This zoo in Bulgaria, for instance, uses a heat lamp to keep their collection of meerkats comfortable. Meerkats are native to the African savanna, while Bulgaria has a more temperate climate, which includes cold winters. Bulgarian zoos must keep animals like meerkats in small, warm enclosures.

Photograph by Elena Khristova

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    • Meerkats are small mammals native to the hot, semi-arid scrub of southern Africa.
    • A group of meerkats is called a mob or gang.
    • A meerkat mob may include several families, and up to 30 individuals.
    • Meerkat mobs live in large, interconnecting burrows. A single burrow may have as many as 90 entrances.
    • Meerkat burrows can be as deep as 2 meters (6.5 feet).
    • Meerkats don't usually dig their own burrows. They use burrows made by ground squirrels or mongooses. Sometimes, they even share the burrow with these animals.
    • Even though meerkats don't usually dig their own burrows, they are excellent diggers and have many adaptations to help them: Special shields (membranes) cover their eyes to prevent dirt and dust from irritating them. They can close their ears to keep out sand. The claws on their feet are long, sharp, and not retractable.
    • Meerkat babies are called pups. Meerkat pups usually stay in the burrow for about 4 weeks before venturing outside.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adaptation Noun

    a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: adaptation
    arid Adjective


    burrow Noun

    small hole or tunnel used for shelter.

    mammal Noun

    animal with hair that gives birth to live offspring. Female mammals produce milk to feed their offspring.

    meerkat Noun

    small, burrowing mammal native to southern Africa.

    membrane Noun

    thin coating of material that certain substances, such as water, can pass through.

    retract Verb

    to withdraw or take inside (as an appendage or part).

    scrub Noun

    area of arid grassland covered with low-lying trees and bushes.