A sanctuary for Meekats? South African law prohibits Meerkats being kept as pets. Confiscated and surrendered critters are brought to the sanctuary.
What is a Meerkat?
The Meerkat is also called a Suricate. They build underground tunnels for colonies of between five and forty individuals. They live primarily on insects.
Along the lonely road to the Kgalagadi, about 30 minutes before the Park Gate stands an old house in the red orange dunes. Here Anne Rasa from Germany started a Sanctuary for Meekas 20+ years ago. Her dream was to not only provide a rescue center for this fun little critter, but opportunities for I nterns and volunteers. For some reason the latter never really took off.
We drive up the dusty road to the house. Here Eben and and a couple of fellas are banging at an old pallet. They’re making a the framework for new cover to keep the intense sun off the Meerkats.
Sometime back Eben came as one of the few interns and ended up staying on as staff to give tours and guided walks. He is a trained guide and he enjoys the Meerkats.
What happens to the Meerkats brought to the sanctuary?
Some get released. While those too injured or habituated to humans stay forever. According to Eben, it’s not easy to rehabilitate a Meerkat. As they all were once pets they are very used to humans. They have no fear of people. One actually came right up to me to say, “Hello!” With the cutest little chirping sound she sniffed at my feet and put a nice smudge on my camera lense.
When we arrive the four current resident Meerkats are in their enclosure during the heat of the day. Later l find them roaming free and digging holes. Eben says the hope is that they’ll join a wild group of Meerkats. For this to happen the wild group has to accept a stranger… some do and some don’t supposedly. Although Meerkats may look cute and cuddly they are rather feisty and at times quite vicious.
There is not much of a rehabilitation program or process in place. It appears to boil down this… Some stay because they like humans and others gravitate towards a wild family. There is one little guy (image above) who was abused and has a bad leg which he drags along. However, he gets around nicely, though couldn’t run fast enough to escape a hawk or preying jackal.
Anne is getting along in years and so the place is a bit run down. Camping at the Sanctuary for Meerkats is an option, though the facilities are not worth ZAR150 per person. We stay because proceeds help the Meerkats.
Although there is no formal intern or volunteer program folks are welcome to come and help for a couple of weeks or longer. Apparently accommodations are provided and no payment is expected.
For more information visit the Sanctuary website.