Let me start with a well-deserved apology. I have been exceptionally busy with our 3D Kalahari Meerkats project these past few weeks and so I have not even had time to iron my underwear, let alone put out a blog two.
However! Here we are my dear Watson, and my-oh-my do I have a story to tell!!
Firstly, while I’ve been working with the meerkats I’ve definitely noticed a few trends in the Gosa gang group. Let’s deal with these quickly before we get to the really juicy Kalahari drama!
Gosa meerkat personality traits
|Gandalf on duty|
Matimba is an exceptional forager. This little lady is a lean, mean, Kalahari digging machine! She eats well and it shows; sometimes she ends up giving food to other members of the group! Then we have Gandalf, the Alpha male of the Gosa meerkat gang. Gandalf loves to climb up exceptionally high when on sentry duty and stays there for up to half an hour. Although he is wise and experienced, I sometimes get the feeling that he is more of a thrill-seeker! Having said this, he is a brilliant Alpha male and often high up on sentry duty list (Pun intended). And last but not least, Starsky. Ah, young Starsky. Throughout the sands of the Kalahari you can find no better meerkat that fits the position of “clown” than this youngster. If he’s not trying to scent mark everything including his own family members, he’s trying to start up a playful fight with the other teenagers. Sometimes he tries to act mature and mimics Gandalf while he is on sentry duty, but he quickly loses interest and ambushes whoever is nearest to him!
Crunchies for the munchies
The Gosa meerkats really love the large yellowish-white beetle larvae that we find out here in the Kalahari. These larvae belong to the insect family called the Tenebrionidae and this is a large diverse family of predominantly large black beetles. While you’re watching Live you can always tell if a meerkat has sniffed one of these juicy treats out as the meerkats will frantically dig deeper and deeper to find this tantalising treasure! The larvae sit anywhere between ½ft and 2ft deep and this is generally the only time that the meerkats will go into overdrive as they dig! Watch for it next time you’re watching with us.
Finally, let us start unpacking the meerkat drama that has unfolded over the past week here at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve!
Let us set the scene shall we. Picture the Southern Kalahari. A vast arid savannah with scattered trees and Hornbills who sit in the Camelthorn trees and watch crazy cameramen run through the Kalahari following a bunch of meerkats. Now, in this scene, imagine you are facing North. To the far West (Your Left), we have a meerkat group known as the Rock Stars. Closer Eastwards (In front of you) we have what is known as the Jacos (pronounced Ya-kooo-s) Dune group. Finally, even further East (Your Right) and bordering on the small mountain range, we have the Gosa gang. Now, recently the Rock Star group have been fighting with the Jacos Dune group. The Rock Stars seem to have won the day out on the Western front and so the Jacos Dune group have shifted Eastwards into the Gosa gang territory. In turn, the Gosa gang have lost the fight against the much larger Jacos Dune group and have started to shift Northwards. Still with me? Great! Now, caught up in the midst of all this madness were the WildEarth crew! The description that follows is definitely the Kalahari equivalent of an exceptional game of Chess!
So, to help you through this explanation I have added a map for you to view, otherwise you will become cross-eyed and pass out on your keyboard like I did. On the map are the 5 burrows in the Gosa gang territory. These are Camelthorn, Gosa Dam, Sour Grass, Birds Nest and Northern burrow.
Ok, so we are now in the main territory of the Gosa gang. The Gosa family had slept at Gosa dam burrow for a few nights before moving to Birds Nest burrow. During this time the group foraged on the Eastern boundary of their territory. However, the day after they moved to the Birds Nest burrow, Delilah, Brutus, Dingaan and Napoleon vanished. Just like that. No signs, no warnings, nothing. They simply melted away into the Kalahari. The Gosa gang were now down to 6, and Cleo and the remaining family members slept at Birds nest that night again. The next day, with the Gosa gang short 4 members,the group foraged fairly far East before making their way to the Gosa dam burrow. As they approached from the North East, the Gosa group were suddenly all on the alert. Something in the South had their attention. I looked towards the dam and saw 3 meerkats sitting on top of Gosa Dam burrow. “Ah there’s the rest of the group” I thought. But when I looked again there were 5 on the top. I looked back at the Gosa gang who were now firmly on the alert when I looked back in the direction of the dam there were 8 meerkats! I looked frantically back at the 6 Gosa members, and then back to the dam, and now there were 11! Is this a mirage? Where did all these meerkats come from!? And then it hit me: Jacos Dune have launched an expedition deep into the Gosa territory! The 6 Gosa gang members moved forwards, bounding and chirping as they came closer to the Gosa Dam burrow. Both groups of meerkats were now at DEFCON 1; tails raised, backs arched, ready for action! Suddenly, Jacos Dune rushed down the embankment towards the Gosa gang, bounding bravely forward with tails aimed sky-high! And what did the Gosa gang do? They turned tail and literally flew back to their Birds Nest burrow! Six little brown bolts of lightning whipped past the camera and disappeared faster than a good piece of tuna at a penguin banquet! Outnumbered and outmatched, the Gosa gang didn’t have a fighting chance against the more aggressive Jacos Dune group. Unable to run with the camera, we huffed and puffed after the Gosa gang until we met up with them again. Nervous and very taken aback, the group sat on top of Birds Nest burrow and stared back in the direction of the Gosa Dam. They had just lost a piece of prime meerkat real estate to a bunch of invaders!
|A very worried Gosa gang|
After 20mins or so the Gosa gang relaxed and started foraging Eastwards again. The crew and I could not contain our excitement! What an incredible thing to witness! Then, the atmosphere of the group changed. All of a sudden, the group started to move Southwards; back towards Gosa Dam burrow! Could this be happening AGAIN!? All the signs were there, and the Gosa gang weren’t slowing down. This time they changed their tactics and approached the Gosa Dam burrow from the North West. But alas, Jacos Dune were ready for them and the entire scene was repeated. Rush! Whoosh! Puff-pant-puff-pant! Back to Birds Nest burrow! Sigh, oh well. You have to hand it to the Gosa gang for trying. But that was it, the Gosa Dam Burrow was lost to the invading Jacos Dune group from the West. With such a slice in their territory, I think it’s safe to say that Jacos Dune also have a firm grasp on the Gosa gang’s Southern burrow; Camelthorn.
There were no confrontations the next day, and the Gosa gang decided to play it safe and move further Northwards to their Northern burrow. Upon arrival, who do we meet up with? Delilah, Brutus, Dingaan and Napoleon! These 4 little rascals had been hiding out here the whole time! After a quick reunion, the Gosa gang all headed underground for the night. That was on Wednesday 11thApril.
|Jacos Dune pups taking in the sunset at Birds Nest|
Today, Saturday 14th April, Jacos Dune did the unthinkable; they pushed further North and took hold of Birds Nest burrow. These guys never give up! Now the Gosa gang only really have one burrow left to use on their Northern territory, and who knows what meerkat gang is living further North from there? But fear not! For what the Gosa gang lack in strength, they make up for in strategy! While the Jacos Dune group raided Birds Nest burrow, the Gosa gang headed Eastwards and then Southwards, slipping around Jacos Dune, and retaking Gosa Dam!! Yeehaa! A brilliant chess move!
And so, the Gosa gang are still in the fight! What an incredible turn of events! Now, meerkat territories are always shifting, but this looks like it may well turn into a game of strategies. And what about our 4 Gosa companions who jumped ship before the fight? Well, we will have to monitor them, along with the rest of the Gosa gang and the Jacos Dune group!
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Rob’s song for the day: We are the champions – Queen
Warm regards wherever you are in the world,