ROCKHAMPTON Zoo is now home to a new family of four meerkats that arrived from New South Wales this week.

The meerkate enclosure, which is located near the main front entrance, is expected to be open to the public early next month as the mob settles into its new home.

The meerkat mob is made up of four females in mother, Aya, five years old, an adult daughter, Sabari, 15 months old, and pups Keeya and Mahlia who are three months old.

Meerkat Sabari is a new resident at Rockhampton Zoo.
Meerkat Sabari is a new resident at Rockhampton Zoo.

The mob came from Symbio Wildlife Park where all three daughters were born.

The meerkats are less than 30cm tall and will eat a diet of insects.

Rockhampton Zoo exotics keeper Blair Chapman said while it might look like a “bunch of walls and sand”, the enclosure was a very specific and complex build.

The $374,000 exhibit has been delicately designed to replicate the animals’ natural habitat.

The outside area is very open, sandy and rocky with fake termite mounds and logs to climb and hide in.

Zoo keeper Blair Chapman with Sabari
Zoo keeper Blair Chapman with Sabari

“Meerkats are extreme diggers, under two foot of sand is stainless steel mesh that is very small in diameter that they can’t fit through; everything has to be unclimbable, flat Colorbond fences so they can’t climb it,” he said.

There is also a night house and heat lamps for when nights drop below 18 degrees.

The nearby chimps have been quite curious about the new enclosure, looking out of their enclosure to the meerkats, trying to get as close as possible.

“The chimps have been super keen to see what is going on here; since the meerkats have been out, they have been watching,” Mr Chapman said.

Keeya and Aya explore their new enclosure at Rockhampton Zoo.
Keeya and Aya explore their new enclosure at Rockhampton Zoo.

Rockhampton Regional Council Parks Councillor Cherie Rutherford was excited to welcome the animals and said they were all so full of personality.

“There’s the saying that a messy meerkat is a happy meerkat and that is very much the case here,” she said.

“They have been busy ferreting and digging and often have dirt and mess all over their faces.”

The new additions are expected to attract more visitors to the region, particularly as it comes up to Christmas and the school holidays.

Rockhampton Zoo's Blair Chapman and Councillor Cherie Rutherford with the new meerkats.
Rockhampton Zoo's Blair Chapman and Councillor Cherie Rutherford with the new meerkats.

“The development of our zoo plays a really important part in the economic development of our city,” Cr Rutherford said.

“The more we can get tourists through, the longer we can keep them in Rockhampton, the better off that is for our economic development.”

The mob arrived a few days ago and Mr Chapman said the animals had settled in really well.

“Within hours they were sitting on us and eating out of our hands and it’s already improved from there,” he said.

Meerkats in their new night house enclosure.
Meerkats in their new night house enclosure.

Cr Rutherford said it was hoped zoo-goers would be able to see the meerkats from early December.

“We are hoping they will be completely settled within a couple of weeks,” she said.

“What a fantastic way to celebrate the beginning of the school holidays.

“I know that so many are going to absolutely adore these beautiful creatures.

“We will keep the community updated on the official opening date of the enclosure.”

The zoo can be visited between 10am and 4pm each day, entry is free.

The Rockhampton Zoo is owned and operated by Rockhampton Regional Council.