Video: Baby meerkat makes first appearance at Longleat
A baby meerkat is making its first public appearance at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park.
Although born in May the pup had remained inside an underground den with first-time parents mum Cassie and dad Pipsqueak.
However the youngster is now venturing outside for the first time, much to the delight of keepers, who still don't know whether it's male or femal.
“It’s been a long wait but the pup is now loving the outside and can be regularly spotted alongside the six other adults in this group,” said Longleat’s Darren Beasley.
“All the older meerkats take turns in keeping watch over the baby and share any tasty bugs that they find.”
Baby meerkats are born virtually naked and helpless with their eyes closed. They spend the first weeks of life underground and are completely reliant on their mother’s milk.
Later they begin venturing outside but stay close to their burrows usually under the watchful eye of a meerkat babysitter.
At around two months of age the pups, although still partially reliant on mum’s milk, will start foraging for insects and other food items with the rest of the group but it can take up to 16 weeks for them to become self-sufficient.
Originally from southern Africa, meerkats spend a lot of their day sunbathing lying on their back using their dark-skinned sparsely furred bellies as 'solar panels' to warm them up.
They have a wide vocabulary with a variety of alarm calls indicating different dangers.
Despite their comparatively small size meerkats are relatively long-lived, particularly in captivity where individuals can live for up to 12 years or more.