WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – You might recognize this week’s animal for Animals Up Close from singning and dancing in Disney’s “The Lion King”.
Three of the slender-tailed meerkats call the Oglebay Good Zoo home, they call the zoo home, but the species is found in Southern Africa.
7News anchor Kathryn Ghion takes you up close to the meerkats with this week’s contest winners.
Usually, you’ll find Banga, Rafiki, and Nala scurrying in and out of tunnels, or on century duty near the window, watching out for their pals.
“Nala is actually Rafiki’s mom,” said Lauren Mort, an Animal Keeper at the Oglebay Good Zoo. “Rafiki was born here and Banga helped raise Rafiki even though he’s not his dad, so they work together as a group to make sure the babies are safe, and they train them how to watch. They don’t just know to go watch out for everyone. They actually have to be taught that.”
While the boys outnumber the girls, Nala is the one in charge.
“They actually have a matriarchy, so the mother’s in charge,” Mort explained. “When their daughters get to be a certain age they will try and kick them out, or put them in their place and let them know that ‘hey I’m in charge of this group. You’ve got to make your own if you want to be in charge’.”
Meerkats are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants. Snacks on the day the Animals Up Close contest winners visited included mealworms and fruit.
This animal also likes to be around friends. Meerkats usually live in groups of 10 to 15. With a big family, communication is key.
“They have different noises depending on what’s going on,” Mort told the group. “They have a playful chatter if they’re just playing and everything’s fine. They have an alarm call, which is their bark, and it sounds like a dog.”
Just like we can recognize the voice of our friends and family, they can too.
The Oglebay Good Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
If you’d like to visit Nala, Rafiki, and Benga, the zoo also does animal encounters.
For more information call 304-243-4100, or visit the zoo’s website.