Meerkats' birth delights zoo visitors
DUBLIN Zoo has welcomed the arrival of two cute meerkat pups who are sure to be a must-see for visitors this summer.
The female pups join the group or 'mob' of 16 meerkats already at the zoo in their habitat which is located in the Meerkat Restaurant.
Although the pups were born at the end of May, zoo-keepers have only recently caught a glimpse of the adorable pair.
Meerkat parents keep their young hidden in burrows for the first few weeks of their lives.
Throughout this period, the parents and aunts keep a close watch over the pups in secret underground passages, in this case situated behind a rock in Dublin Zoo.
The mammals, who belong to the mongoose family, demonstrate altruistic behaviour within their colonies where one or more meerkats stands guard, to warn others of approaching dangers.
In the colony each member of the group takes on a specific task, from baby-sitting and teaching youngsters how to survive, to foraging and sentry duty.
The zoo's team leader Eddie O'Brien said he was delighted by the bundles of joy.
"Both pups are doing very well," he said. "They are still feeding from their mother and recently they have also started eating solids. As carnivores, they eat insects and mice."
Meerkats typically live in drier regions and can be found in parts of southern Africa including the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Namib Desert in Namibia, south-western Angola and South Africa.
The pups will be named in the coming weeks by zoo keepers at the Dublin tourist hotspot which attracts over one million visitors each year.