Meerkats proving a hit with Camperdown Wildlife Centre visitors

Meerkats a first for Dundee Camperdown Wildlife Centre are proving a big hit with visitors.

The cute creatures have been safely installed at their new home and were met by Dundee City Council Lord Provost Bob Duncan.

Councillor Duncan, chair of Leisure and Culture Dundee, visited the meerkats’ new 3000 sq ft enclosure at the zoo.

The heated facility was opened to the public last week and the five meerkats have proved a hit with visitors and stood to attention when the Lord Provost saw them for the first time.

He said: “Obviously everyone has seen the puppet version of these animals advertising insurance and they have become much-loved characters raising the profile of the species.

“But we brought them here from a collection in Leeds because they are important as a learning resource.

“Visitors will be able to find out more about the issues meerkats face with their natural desert habitat in southern Africa.

“They bring a different element to our visitor experience and I am delighted to see them here and hope they are happy in their new home.”

The enclosure, in front of where the bears are housed, is underwired because the new tenants, which have yet to be named, are skilled tunnellers.

Camperdown Wildlife Centre is operated by Leisure and Culture Dundee working in partnership with Dundee City Council.

Bradley Yule, conservation network manager of the wildlife centre, said: “It’s always exciting to introduce new species. We have never had them in the past, although we have had other members of the mongoose family.

“There are a lot of habitat problems all over the world and having desert species in our learning programme is important.”

Meerkats are normally found in the Kalahari Desert and are around 12 inches tall.

They tend to live in groups of up to 40 in the wild to provide safety in numbers. Meerkats are omnivores, eating both plants and animals. Their diet consists mostly of insects but they are also known to eat small rodents, birds, lizards, and even scorpions.

Although they normally walk on all fours, there is usually one animal in the group known as a sentry who stands on its back feet to act as a lookout for danger.

Bradley added: “Visitors will be able to see the sentry when the meerkats are in their enclosure.”