Dortmund Zoo, with around 1,500 animals and 230 species, is a huge crowd-puller. Keeping this motley and capricious community happy is a challenge in terms of manpower and materials and is really hard work – though visitors are scarcely aware of this. However, the zoo now features a very striking "beast of burden". It looks like a giraffe, burrows like a meerkat, is armed like a rhinoceros and moves as sure-footedly as a Himalayan tahr.
Meerkats share everything – even females
Meerkats love insects, but catching them is a problem, as there are no termite mounds in the zoo and no swarms of locusts flying by. "So sometimes we hide insects in a melon. We bore holes into it from all sides, put insects inside, and at the end there's nothing left," says zookeeper Benjamin Andrzejak. Live-packaged vitamins.
Playing, digging and their close-knit society keep meerkats healthy, which is vital for reproduction. However, the prospects here are bleak. At the moment, the only meerkats in the enclosure at Dortmund are three males. The last female recently died of old age. The keepers and zoo management agree that a new female is urgently needed. Only one? "Yes," confirms Andrzejak, "Meerkats share everything, even partners – everyone in the mob is allowed to breed."