The Borneo Post - Good English

A mob of meerkats

Read the passage and answer the questions.

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On a large rock in the dry grasslands of southern Africa, a few slender, foot-tall meerkats stand upright on their rear legs.

Their statue-like stances, along with their small pointed faces and large eyes, make a cute picture. However, these meerkats aren’t posing for photos. They’re acting as guards, watching for predators while others in their group, or mob, search for food.

A mob of meerkats is made up of thirty to forty individual­s from several families.

They’re led by a dominant male and female, but the slightly larger female is considered the top meerkat.

If one of the meerkats standing guard spots a jackal, hyena, hawk, eagle, or other predator, it will call out an alarm. The call will be different if a predator is approachin­g from the air than if the danger is coming from on land. Mob members usually run for the safety of their extensive undergroun­d burrows and tunnels. Sometimes, however, they stand together, hissing, until the predator leaves.

Inside the burrows, other mob members watch over newborns and juvenile meerkats. The burrows have many entrances and exits. The deeper tunnels have comfortabl­e year-round temperatur­es.

A meerkat mob has several burrow systems. The meerkats move from one system to another every few months. They often occupy burrows previously dug by ground squirrels or other animals. However, meerkats are also well adapted for creating or extending burrows. They have long claws for digging. They also have a clear membrane covering their eyes, and ears that close to keep out dirt.

More fun meerkat facts:

• Meerkats are diurnal. This means they are active during the day. When they emerge from their burrows each morning they like to stretch out on their backs and warm up in the sun.

• Although the name “meerkat” might make you think they’re related to cats, the meerkat is actually related to the mongoose.

• The dark fur around a meerkat’s eyes diminishes the sun’s glare.

• Meerkats can be vicious fighters. When members from two different mobs clash over territory, some might not survive.

• Meerkats have an excellent sense of smell. This helps them find food even when it’s hiding undergroun­d. They love insects, but also eat spiders, scorpions, lizards, rodents, eggs, birds, and fruit.

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