Earlier this year, I travelled to the Makgadikgadi Pans region of Botswana to photograph some of the most charismatic (and cutest) creatures in Africa – meerkats!
Meerkats are members of the mongoose family and are found in the desert region of Southern Africa. They are social animals, living in large family groups. They sleep in underground networks and during the day they venture out of their dens in search of food. A meerkat’s diet consists mainly of scorpions, beetles, lizards, eggs and small mammals.
Meerkats forage in groups with at least one sentry on duty at all times. They need to be extremely vigilant while they are out in the open so that they aren’t surprised by predators such as birds of prey or jackals. Meerkats aren’t very tall so they try to seek out the high ground in order to get a better view of their surroundings.
The higher the vantage point the better so they will go to impressive lengths to find that perfect lookout post!
These meerkats are completely wild but over time they have become habituated to humans. This means it is possible to gain their trust and get really close to them. When people are around, these clever little creatures take full advantage of the situation and will sometimes climb on top of the nearest person for a better view out over the long grass.
Sometimes they just decide that sitting on a warm human is more comfortable that sitting on the coarse sand!
Trying to photograph animals that jumped on me whenever I got too close was certainly a challenge that I wasn’t used to facing… not that I was complaining! For a behind the scenes look at this project including lots of amusing meerkat antics, check out this short 2-minute video.
One of the highlights of my time in Botswana was getting to spend time with some adorable three-week-old meerkats. These tiny babies first emerged from the den a day or so into my trip and after that I spent a lot of time with them so they became very comfortable around me. In fact, it wasn’t long before they were treating me like their own personal plaything!
Meekats are charming little creatures and spending time with them is always a privilege.