Pet Patter - Catrina Skepper's Blog
Rearing Meerkats From Babies? Not So Simples
The Colliers own the Axe Valley Bird and Animal Park in Devon and it is home to, no less than, 24 different species of animals, including racoons, Canadian tree porcupines and wallabies.
Last year the husband and wife team were doing their usual checks around the enclosures, paying particular attention to meerkets, Mango and Tango, who were expecting their second litter. Jayne Collier told the Daily Mail that when she got to the enclosure she spotted three tiny bodies outside the hut.
The meerkat babies, or kits, were sadly rejected by their mother. So Jayne wrapped the mini meerkats up in her pocket and rushed them back to the farmhouse. The frozen kits were kept warm in tea towels and placed near to the Aga. However, despite Jayne's attempts at resuscitation, one of the meerkats sadly passed away.
Because Jayne and Andrew had saved the meerkats by taking them in, this also meant that it was impossible for the babies to ever be returned to their mother as they would now hold the scent of the Colliers. So, being a pair of animal lovers, they saw no other choice but to rear the miniature meerkets themselves.
Jayne said: "When they were very little, we asked our friends who run Exmoor Zoo for advice, and our vets had been fantastic, but a lot of it is going on instinct. For instance I couldn't think of what to put them in to keep them warm, and I had a flash of inspiration and tried a fingerless glove. To start with they were nestled in the hand part and then they wriggled into the fingers."
As the meerkats, who were named Wren and Rascal by the Colliers children, got older they got braver and started appealing to their natural instincts by burrowing in soft carpets and digging out the grout around flagstones.
After a while their inquisitive antics even managed to befriend the families other pets, Andrew said: "Amber and Willow, the dogs, were a bit wary at first, because the kits would come up and nip them but, now they've all got used to each other, the dogs would sit there and let the pair scamper over them. Tarka, the cat, even rolled around with them on the floor."
After a while, Andrew and Jayne started taking the meerkats outside and soon enough they began living in a pen.
Now, one year on, Wren and Rascal are fighting fit and have just celebrated their first birthday with a tasty celebration of their favourite things, mealworms, meat and fruit. Yummy.
The next step in their life is to introduce them to other meerkats and hopefully, one day, they will find a mate, so they can produce offspring of their own.
Jayne and Andrew are delighted that their babies are growing into strong and healthy adults, but Jayne will miss having as much contact with them, as naturally they will become more independent as they get older. She explained: "While it will be wonderful to see them bring up their own kits, I will miss the close relationship we have with them - but I guess I'll have to be content being a proud granny from a distance."