We visited today and last week on Saturday, I paid an additional visit on Thursday.
The mob is still without a dominant couple with Stubby Tail still showing his dominance display and Orlok following him around.
On Thursday I watched Möfzi sitting by herself under the big heat lamp for most of the time.
She looked very sad and depressed. On the video I made, we detected that there is something wrong with her right front paw. She will hold it in a strange manner and it looks somehow bent in the wrong direction. When she sits, she will sometimes "fold" her paw in a curious way.
I informed the keepers by email, as it was not obvious if this was a fresh wound or an older injury. Today they informed me that they caught Möfzi and had a look at her paw.
It looks like the paw was broken above the joint, but it must have happened some time ago. There is not much they can do, and as long as it is not getting worse, she will not see the vet. She does not really limp, and she also has some strength left in this paw.
No one knows, how this happened, but it adds to the all the emotional and physical stress she has had in these last two months.
She will also most likely lose the tip of her tail. Her tail has lost all of its fur on the last third and the last vertebra is already protruding. The skin of rest of her tail still appears intact, so hopefully she will only lose the tip.
Shortly before we left today, Snoutie came up to groom her and she also reciprocated. Sayuri can also be seen snuggling up to Möfzi.
After about 30 seconds of grooming, they were interrupted by Stubby Tail who pounced on Möfzi.
He will often attack her and bite into her neck, or stand in front of her with his mouth open, ready to pounce. She will then retreat into a little crevice under the big lookout hill waiting for Stubby Tail to retreat.
The rest of the mob is mostly indifferent, with Swingkat and Flat Ears showing occasional interest in sitting next to her.
Sometimes, when the youngsters engage into play and some ot the adults will follow, the playful mood will change into a fight with aggression towards Möfzi. Mostly she will also growl and snarl, but she does not defend herself as a dominant should.
On Thursday she would crawl away, as soon as more than 2 other kats came close, even if it were only the youngsters.
Today she looked a little better and was also seen lying under the big lamp together with the mob. She is never seen right in the middle, though, but alway close to the edge and apart from the youngsters, no other kat came up to cuddle her.
One really sweet scene was Snoutie sitting in front of Möfzi and turning his head to press his little nose against hers. He also leaned on her while sitting up. Snoutie can be seen sitting close to her very often, doing guard duty.
The three youngsters are well and thriving, little Sayuri looks like a minature version of Möfzi. Caruso is looking more and more like Swingkat, only her fur has a lighter shade.
Here are some pictures taken on our visit last week, with the kats sitting and playing in the food bowl.
Today we visited again and enjoyed seeing the mob have a rather messy meal.
Swingkat is fully recovered and missing half of his teeth in his lower jaw does not seem to cause him too much disadvantage. He had a close call with an infected tooth, when the infection spread to the jawbone.
Sayuri continues to do nicely, today it was quite cold and she has a bit trouble coordinating her movements when she is also shivering at the same time but she still got everywhere she wanted to go.
We are now also occasionally seeing Caruso and Sayuri doing guard duty - sitting on the highest hill and singing the "watchman's song", a typical series of peeping sounds.
The grooming state of the mob members was better today, until after the feeding frenzy when everyone looked quite disorderly.
We saw several interactions where Möfzi did not back down from Stubbytail, however another frequent visitor of the meerkat enclosure informed us that there was again a mobbing today.
But during the time we were there, things seemed a little more peaceful.
Swingkat sticks out his tongue at us after a messy meal.
Left: Sayuri snuggles up to Swingkat. Right: Stubbytail seeing off an unidentified threat, probably a dog on the other side of the enclosure.
There were many events for our meerkats this year.
2008 ended sadly with the death of former dominant male Jolly Roger shortly before Christmas.
Autopsy result Today we visited the kats again and talked with one of the keepers. The results of the clinical investigation had just returned. They pointed out that Jolly Roger had a clostridial infection, possibly as the direct cause of death. However this was on top of, and possibly resulting from, a generally weakened state due to poor nutrition and hydration. i.e. his immune system was too weak to defend against something that might otherwise have been kept under control by the natural defenses of the body. Jolly Roger had been seen to eat well when he had a chance to, and of course was also observed by the keepers. but it was difficult to keep track of his health because he had become so intimidated that he ran away from absolutely anything. It probably boils down to this: his system was not able to keep up with the stress and he was using too much energy as he was always running and out in the cold.
BirthThe great joyful event of this year was of course the birth of the three young kats in mid-July. These carry on the legacy of their father Jolly Roger. It was the first time for us to see meerkat babies, and we felt privileged to witness what we saw. We had last visited on July 12, when Möfzi was still pregnant, but it was obvious that she would give birth in the near future. On July 15 we returned again, and at first we saw only a few of the adult kats, but there were some other visitors pointing at something, and suddenly I heard the little high chirping sound of a baby meerkat - and there was Möfzi, carrying around a tiny baby.
In the first few days, the kats, especially Möfzi, seemed a bit confused and the babies were constantly brought out of the burrow and sometimes handled a bit roughly but they seem to be quite tough. We saw Möfzi carrying a baby again on July 16 and 19, at this time we did not know how many babies there were and couldn't tell whether she was always bringing out the same baby or different ones each time - we never saw more than one baby outside simultaneously.
Sayuri On July 19 we first noticed that "the baby" had a stubby tail, which had not been the case before - at that time we couldn't know whether it had somehow lost a part of its tail or there were several babies, some with long and short tails.
Today of course we know this was our first glimpse of little Sayuri, who had a very hard start in life due to her motion coordination problems.
A happy and healthy Sayuri relaxes under the heat lamp. January 1, 2009.
It was on July 26 that we first saw all three babies outside and could confirm that one of them had an abnormally short tail.
As the next months showed Sayuri overcame her difficulties, and while there are some things she wil never be able to do quite like the other kats, she has developed into a strong and confident young meerkat girl. In the last weeks she has also mostly closed the gap in size with the other youngsters, and the juveniles are at first glance not so much smaller than Swingkat, the smallest of the adults.
The other kids, Snoutie and Caruso, never caused any concern for their health as they were always strong from the beginning on but of course we don't love them any less, we just always kept an eye out especially for little Sayuri.
Interestingly Sayuri is the one who has developed the most recognizable and assertive personality so far.
Snoutie (foreground) and Flat-Ears on the highest guard-post in the enclosure. December 26, 2008
Snoutie With Snoutie we could recognize a very early interest in guard duty and since about four months of age he has been regularly standing guard, initially together with his father, but today it already seems that he is accepted as a proper guard. But we haven't been able to pin down as much in terms of characteristic behaviour for these two. They haven't had to face great difficulties in life as early and as much as Sayuri did.
Anarchy Right now the state of the mob is a little more quiet, Stubbytail isn't acting quite as terroristic anymore, but a true, constructive leadership has not yet emerged. Möfzi is only very slowly becoming more assertive.
Last time we visited, the grooming state of most kats was not very good.
This was especially conspicuous with Stubbytail, who despite his show of dominance does not seem to profit from it (normally, getting groomed by everybody is one of the main rewards of a dominant status).
Möfzi also did not look well combed. Only the youngsters and Swingkat looked properly taken care of.
It was obvious that the youngsters don't quite understand what is going on, as when Stubbytail initiated a vicious attack on Möfzi, they took this as opportunity to start some enthusiastic harmless playfighting with each other - not recognizing it as a very serious incident. We informed the keeper team of our observation of this attack, and they took care of Möfzi and put some disinfectant on her neck where she had been attacked.
The examination had however shown that she was mostly dishevelled and had only suffered a small superficial wound, however the effect of the attack on her was a clear shock.
Today this situation had improved, Möfzi looked reasonably groomed. Stubbytail is still looking somewhat unkempt and we haven't really witnessed any grooming going on for him.
Pictures Top and bottom row: January 1, 2009; middle row: December 26, 2008
Left: Some kat's tails are longer than others. Snoutie and Sayuri. Three months ago it was already a great achievement for Sayuri to be able to sit up at all. Today she can sit up as long as she wants to and climb up to the highest points of the enclosure. In the beginning one had to be afraid that she might never be able to properly walk. Her successful development has been a true joy. Right: Little Sayuri trying to look innocent.
Left: Stubbytail "Tyrant without a cause" is not looking well-groomed at all. However over the recent weeks he has gained in body mass and his head is looking more massive.