Prayer

Do You Know What This Meerkat Expression Means?

This cute meerkat has his ears pinned back and looking at the sky is a forlorn almost begging way. Perhaps praying for a nice juicy insect to pass by for breakfast? When I cam upon this scene I felt that this meerkat’s position and attitude were very strange indeed.

At first he was standing upon a rock on both his hind legs and searching the horizon for any predators. All of a sudden, this little guy takes this pose and remained that way for several seconds. I was fortunate to take the shot because my attention was originally placed upon his companion, which stood by out of frame to his left. However, he had darted back to the safety of a tunnel opening.

I came to find out that our lonely sentry was unfortunately not praying. Nor was he begging for food from some passerby. He was instead sending a clear visual signal to the rest of his gang that there was an aerial predator nearby.   I was too busy with the camera to actually look in the direction he was looking to see for myself what could be hunting him.

According to National Geographic, if a meerkat sentry sees any airborne objects that are big enough to be a predator, they will crouch down and bark out a Prayerwarning before running to the safety of their extensive tunnel system.   This system is quite good at protecting themselves from the hazards of falcons and other birds of prey.

However, they do not seem to be able to distinguish these dangerous birds from the occasional airplane or helicopter flying by and will show this behavior for them also. Very likely it’s a better safe than sorry instinctual response that causes this reaction. Of course when you are a meerkat and weigh about a pound and a half, it means you’re a a big heavy weight in the meerkat world.  So fear of any flying animal larger than a swallow makes perfect sense for survival.

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“Meerkats, Meerkat Pictures, Meerkat Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/meerkat/>.

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