Banga, Rafiki and Nala are a close family unit at the Oglebay Good Zoo, but it would be the same if they lived in the wild.
“Very very very family oriented animal,” said Mindi White, Curator of Animals at the Oglebay Good Zoo. “They like to be with their family. There’s actually ones that teach the babies how to eat.”
Banga is the oldest male, and Rafiki is Nala’s son.
And as for who runs their meerkat world?
“The girl is in charge and the girl’s the mom,” said Animals Up Close winner Jalynn Fike.
If you visit these three, you’ll usually find one of them watching over the group on century duty.
“Century duty means they’re watching for danger, White said. “So they can actually tell each other if there’s danger in the air or if there’s danger coming from the floor.”
When a meerkat senses danger they bark.
“They got scared and one was barking from the camera,” Fike remembers of her encounter with the meerkats.
But eventually the group warmed up to the 7News cameras and to the visitors to their home to let Fike feel their soft fur.
Meerkats’ unique stripes help to camouflage in the sand, and their dark eye patches serve a purpose too.
“Like how we wear sunglasses, so it helps reflect the sun out of their eyes,” White explained.
Their diet in the wild would include insects, grubs and other vertebrates, but they settled for a snack of meat and yogurt for this visit.
If you’d like to meet Banga, Rafiki and Nala or other animals at the Oglebay Good Zoo, you can schedule your own encounter by calling 304-243-4100.
The Zoo is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m on weekends.
For more information, visit oglebay.com/good-zoo.