EDMONTON - Meerkats are the latest animal to greet guests at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
Wade Krasnow, team leader for animal care at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, said getting the South African creatures from the Czech Republic was a bit of a challenge.
"They're not allowed into Canada because they're considered an invasive species," Krasnow said. "I had to get a special exception for an import permit."
But the wait was worth it. The plexiglass was taken out and the dynamic creatures are as interested in the visitors as guests are in them.
"We had them before too, so we knew they were very popular amongst our visitors," Krasnow said.
An alpha female and her two daughters and unrelated five male brothers were from Prague, but had to be quarantined for 45 days before being displayed at the zoo in June.
"They're quite mischievous little things," Krasnow said.
The zoo does not yet know who the alpha male is, but only the alpha male and female mate.
"They're very good to each other when they're living in a family group, but if they see a rival gang, they're quite aggressive towards each other," he said. "They do live in a desert so they're competing for resources in the areas that they live."
The black around their eyes helps to deflect the sun, so they can see aerial predators.
So far, the only meerkat with a name is "snaggletooth".
As the temperatures cool, they will be brought inside.
• Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family, not cats.
• Life expectancy in the wild is eight years, but they can live up to 15 years in zoos.
• Adult meerkats weight between 1.4 to 2.1 pounds, with the females larger than the males.
• Meerkats live in South Africa with a social structure that includes sentries, hunters and babysitters.
• They mostly eat insects, but as they are desert animals, they will eat small vertebrates, eggs and plants.
• Meerkats are immune to scorpion venom.
• Timone on The Lion King and Meerkat Manor have made the animals popular.
--Edmonton Valley Zoo