Summer for the mob

Two days ago I visited the kats in the early evening of a hot day.

At first only Möfzi, Flat Ears and the youngsters came, but after some time Orlok and Stubby Tail popped out of the inside enclosure and came running.

At the moment the enclosure is really great, lots of plants and even some small trees have sprung up and the kats have many opportunities for playing hide and seek or digging up interesting things. I hope they will not clear this away too soon, as they usually do.

Last year, when the babies emerged, they left the enclosure almost untouched for the whole summer, but in the years before they uprooted all the plants as soon as the enclosure started to look a little unkempt.

The plants also provide some more privacy for the kats, which I think is very important for the group.

Later in the evening the whole group suddenly barked and shrieked with alarm. At first I could not see, what had caused this as the sun was very low and they were looking right into the sun.

But then I saw a paraglider landing close by behind one of the major buldings. They hate all kinds of silent gliders, in particular those resembling the shape of a bird of prey. They also detest hot air ballons, their looming silent presence in the sky is too much.

Intersting enough the bark/shriek they made was completely different from that they make when they see for example the black-and-white cat from next door (which they hate) or they discover a bird of prey or something else further off.

Meerkat sounds are studied by Professor Marta Manser from Zurich University. 34 different sounds are known in meerkats.

Those of you watching meerkats regularly will be familiar with some of the sounds like the clucking watchman`s song or the purring sound they constantly make which is a kind of positioning call.

They also have a special grooming sound which is a kind of high-pitched squeek, this can often be heard when one of the youngsters is grooming Möfzi.

The sounds they make for different kinds of threats (aerial, from the ground, closer by, further off etc.) differ from group to group, so each meerkat group has its own dialect which is passed on within the group.

Actually I really wonder why so many people (including zoo staff) claim that the meerkats whistle when alarmed. No, they don`t! It`s marmots that whistle, but not meerkats.

Here come some pictures I made during my visit.

Left: Snoutie and Sayuri on Guard Duty
Right: Sayuri standing up with her legs wide apart so that her tail will touch the floor.

Close up of Caruso - doesn´t she look like Swingkat?
Right: Caruso "I want a.... SHRUBBERY!"

Orlok (back) Snoutie (front)
Right: Snoutie "I want ANOTHER shrubbery!"

Close ups of Möfzi
Right: Caruso and Möfzi - Möfzi is blinking, you can see the nictating membranes coming down

Left: Orlok
Right: Sayuri terrorizing Flat Ears

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