Spending a large chunk of the past 25 days with the Gosa meerkat gang has been a very enjoyable, and at the same time, fascinating experience. Observing each individual meerkat go about their daily business of survival, against the magnificent backdrop of the Southern Kalahari, has made it impossible for us not project our human attitudes and emotions onto each of these little yet, larger than life, characters.
Here follows a brief description of each of the ten meerkats that make up the Gosa gang based on our observations thus far.
The alpha female of the Gosa gang, she is a serene presence. From the start, she has been totally unfazed by the presence of the crew and our gear. Her calm demeanour seems to have rubbed off on most of the other members, enabling us to gain their trust and film them without interrupting their natural activities. Sadly, and quite surprisingly, she has been unable to rear any pups, and it is now clear that her most recent litter also succumbed. Whether she is a strong enough character to maintain her status as the alpha female and hold the gang together remains to be seen. Big challenges lie ahead for Cleo.
Regally grey in the hair around his face, his status as the alpha male remains undisputed at this point. He is something of a workaholic, and takes his job as head of security very seriously indeed. He is inevitably the one who takes on the responsibility of sentry duty, risking life and limb to get as high as possible to scan for both aerial and ground predators. His motto: “No tree too high, no bush too thorny.” How he manages to eat enough in between performing his duties, I’m not quite sure, but he still seems to be in pretty good shape.
An extremely nervous, bordering on paranoiac, beta female, she seems quite distant from the alpha pair. Her slightly larger than usual belly suggests that, she has either been enjoying the beetle larvae buffet a little too much, or she has broken the meerkat gang code and gotten herself pregnant. I suspect it to be the latter, which could signal serious trouble for her and the pups down the line.
A prominent beta male in the gang, he is Gandalf’s right hand….um…..meerkat. Equally adept at scaling impossibly high and flimsy sentry posts, he performs sentry duty when Gandalf allows himself a breather and a chance to protein-load. He has exceptional eyesight, but seems to lack a little bit of judgement as he has often sounded the alarm for something quite innocuous. It seems that the rest of the gang have mastered the art of knowing when he is ‘crying wolf’. He is a strong and good-looking meerkat, and no doubt he will have designs on becoming an alpha male someday. Whether he will have the gumption to challenge Gandalf, or whether he will choose to seek greener pastures, only time will tell.
Brutus and Napoleon:
Two beta males that, as with Delilah, are not part of the inner circle of the Gosa gang and that we don’t know much about. We have often noticed them sneaking off, quite rapidly mind you, from the burrow in the early morning, resulting in a split in the gang for the day’s foraging. They do not always spend the night in the same burrow as the rest of the gang either. It is possible, even likely, that one of them is responsible for impregnating Delilah. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out should those pups arrive.
The youngest member of the gang, he is a real character; full of life, extremely curious and rather mischievous. From the start he has shown a keen interest in us and our various accessories. He seems to have a thing for the old aqua show curtain and always quite fancies the look of his reflection in the camera housing. Despite the fact that he is quite old enough and perfectly capable of finding his own food, he has somehow managed to convince a few of the others to hand over their hard-earned grubs every once in a while. He has also recently discovered the power of his anal gland, which is used for scent marking, and has been marking anything he can lift his leg up to, including the other gang members. The smart money says he will be the first to perform this display of ownership on the camera rig or one of the crew. Indeed, it seems that there are great things written in his stars.
Older than Starsky, but not quite at full maturity, he has displayed a level-headedness beyond his years and is a born leader. He has not been shy to perform sentry duty when the other older males have not been around and his tree-climbing skills are on the up and up. Never shy to let his hair down, he is also Starsky’s sparring partner when it’s time for fun and games at the burrow. He has, however, also made it clear that he is higher up the chain of command than Starsky and the two younger females, and has never hesitated to put any of them in their place should they ever get a little too cheeky.
She is one of the two younger females in the group and even at her tender age, she shows signs of having a real maternal and caring nature. She seems to have a soft spot for Starsky, and has been seen giving him some of the juiciest morsels she digs up. She is often in the company of Cleopatra, seemingly trying to learn from her and win her favour.
As her name suggests she is a bit of a princess, both in her behaviour and her appearance. She has almost symmetrically perfect markings on her coat, and her general frosty demeanour and attitude of indifference are typical of teenagers brought up in the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton generation. She likes to team up with Matimba and then gang up on Starsky when it’s time for the late afternoon ‘roll in the sand’. How she copes with the onset of adulthood and potential responsibilities that come with it will be interesting to observe.
Stay tuned as we continue to bring you the unfolding stories of these characters that make up the Gosa meerkat gang.