Meerkat Population

Commandos_checking_Whiskers_out_RobThe KMP project works with a number of habituated meerkat groups, with most individuals allowing observers to walk within a metre while they forage. There are usually approximately 12 to 15 habituated groups with approximately 250 to 300 meerkats, ranging from 5 to 30 members per group.

Experiments are facilitated by the following characteristics:

  • Unambiguous identification of individuals is ensured, based on characteristic visible marks as well as on ID transponders. Groups can be traced and identified by radio-collars attached to a dominant animal.
  • Observers can touch and weigh almost all individuals on a regular basis. It is possible to collect samples (blood, urine, fecal samples) of most animals, allowing researchers to obtain detailed behavioral data, conduct controlled experiments, and to estimate the costs of cooperation to individual helpers.
  • Accurate life history records are collected for each individual in the population, which, in combination with genetic data, allow estimates of lifetime reproductive success to be made. Births, deaths, pregnancies, the onset and conclusion of lactation and oestrus, changes in dominance status and even short-term absence from a group are regarded as important data.

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