Until recently, the diminutive meerkat was one of the lesser-known African mammals. However, the BBC series on meerkats hosted by Sir David Attenborough, a starring role in the animated film ‘The Lion King’, and a recent feature article in National Geographic, have all contributed in raising the status of this remarkable animal to that of a celebrity. Meerkats are only to be found in the arid areas of southern Africa, such as the Kalahari Desert, where they live in highly organised communities of between 5 and 30 individuals. When standing bolt upright and alert, or all in a row, soaking up the first of the sun’s rays, these creatures are instantly recognisable – their stick-like tails become their third ‘tripod’ leg. An adult will ‘stand’ close to 30cms in height and weigh no more than 900g. Both strictly diurnal and carnivorous, meerkats forage for, sniff out, or dig up their prey with great gusto. The average meerkat’s diet consists of ants, termites, beetle grubs, small snakes, geckos and lizards, with the most succulent meal being a fat scorpion. Interestingly, the meerkat appears to be immune to scorpion venom – it will survive a sting that would kill a small child. They also seem to have partial immunity to snake venom, and, in groups, will mercilessly taunt even the notorious Cape cobra. At the first sign of risk, the sentry will emit a rapid series of alarm calls, whereupon all will rapidly dash for the cover of a nearby burrow. Those who have spent extended periods studying these energetic and intelligent members of the mongoose family have been amazed and touched by how familiar the meerkats have allowed them to become. One wildlife photographer, engaged in close up shots of a particular meerkat, was climbed upon and used as a sentry lookout point! He found himself unable to move a muscle for 2 whole hours. Meerkats are very communicative, having a large ‘vocabulary’ of chatters, growls, grunts, high barks, and submissive whines. They are naturally protective and affectionate with one another, hugging and kissing liberally. They exhibit a spirit of loyalty and cooperation almost unique within the animal kingdom. If a fellow meerkat is injured the others will nurse, groom, and console him, bringing him all the choicest morsels of food until he is feeling recovered. To allow nursing mothers to forage for food and replenish their milk supplies, other clan members will take turns to ‘baby-sit’ and even wet-nurse youngsters, who emerge from the burrow three weeks after being born. Once the kittens are weaned, they are fed by all members of the community. Each kitten will form an attachment to a clan member, who will patiently teach the youngster hunting skills. At sunset, the whole community will retire to the safety of a communal burrow (which they occasionally share with the less intelligent ground squirrel) and huddle together for warmth and comfort. Nonetheless, battles between clans can take place when a family looks for new territory, and these occasionally result in mortal combat. The victors of such an encounter will leap up and down with glee, engage in much comradely hugging, and often dig a pit on the battle ground, into which they all then enthusiastically defecate! In the creation of my silver meerkat family, I have tried to capture the alertness of the adults in contrast to the endearing charm of their sleepy young. The minute details of their delicate anatomy have also been faithfully reproduced – from their delicately slim paws down to their sharp little teeth. Unrelenting in their pursuit of prey during the warm daylight hours, they in turn are preyed upon, by equally relentless eagles, jackals, lions, hyenas, and large snakes. For this reason, a sentry is always on guard, at the very pinnacle of the highest vantage point – perhaps the top of a termite mound or in the highest branches of a nearby acacia. Sentry duty is a task shared by all adults except nursing mothers and is taken very seriously; the appointed meerkat will continuously scan the skies and the distant horizons for any sign of danger.
Item code: 202-431
Made by hand in Zimbabwe
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Most pieces can be made in 18 ct gold and in sterling silver. Engraving and the setting of semi-precious stones are also available.
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Every Patrick Mavros silver sculpture is made using the ancient technique of lost wax casting. Obtaining a silver sculpture of the original wax model is a long and involved process. The wax model is encased in liquid rubber which, once set, is carefully cut away to provide a negative. Into this cavity... More about silver casting »
Every Mavros piece is borne of our experiences in the natural world and of our respect for the environment. Every piece has a story. More about this piece »
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