Mob of 'genetically valuable' Wichita meerkats join Los Angeles Zoo breeding project

Three female meerkats from the Sedgwick County Zoo are now part of a breeding group at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Three female meerkats from the Sedgwick County Zoo are now part of a breeding group at the Los Angeles Zoo. Los Angeles Zoo

Three female meerkats from the Sedgwick County Zoo have joined a breeding group at the Los Angeles Zoo in an effort to rebuild the zoo's meerkat collection after its elderly meerkats died.

The three meerkats, all six years old, were transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo in January, according to a release. They join four males from Zoo de Granby in Granby, Quebec.

Moving the meerkats from Wichita to Los Angeles was a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan, the release states. The Los Angeles Zoo was looking to rebuild their meerkat collection with a genetically valuable group of meerkats.

The "mobs" — or groups — of meerkats were introduced to each other slowly, and they joined an outdoor habitat together on Feb. 23.

"So far, the group is getting along well, and the Zoo hopes that meerkat pups will be on the horizon, as it would not only educate the public on this clever and communicative species, but also create exciting challenges for the animal care staff," the release states.

Rose Legato, a senior animal keeper at the zoo, said this is the first time she will work with a mob that could potentially raise pups.

“My staff and I are excited to learn more about this new group, and more importantly, share the journey with our zoo patrons," she said.

Meerkats are pint-size members of the mongoose family and are constantly digging and sunbathing around their habitat, the release states. They have predators on land and in the sky, so they assign a "guard" to watch over the habitat as the others design intricate burrows to provide safety from predators.

While no species of mongoose is known to be threatened or endangered, meerkats are one of the most strictly regulated animals in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Meerkats are of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and they have a "stable" population trend.

The Sedgwick County Zoo has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its successful breeding of rare and endangered species, according to its website.

Find out what it takes to feed all of the creatures at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The annual budget for food is $750,000. If you have an idea for Inside Wichita, please e-mail jgreen@wichitaeagle.com.