Toy Meerkat Becomes Mother To Orphans

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The five baby meerkats lost their mother Anika after the trauma of giving birth to the brood, combined with her age, proved too much for her.But rather than leave them alone without mum, owner Steve Rowlands, 28, had to come up with an ingenious way to get them through what could have been a difficult childhood.Using a ten-inch tall Meerkat cuddly toy and a hot water bottle he has now managed to recreate the motherly experience for the tiny creatures.

Now the furry four-inch critters get a near-authentic start to life at their home in Tropical Inc in Oldbury, West Mids.
“The babies are a month old now and they lost their mum just two days after they were born,” Mr Rowlands said. “We bought the toy to try and lessen the trauma for them and try and make things as natural as possible.”We put it in with them and they just snuggled up to it like it was their mother. To recreate the warmth that Anika would have given off we also found a small hot water bottle we got the right temperature.

“They now assume that the toy is their mum and they acting completely normally around it. Of course every hour we have to feed them milk ourselves, but use miniature little bottles which recreate how they would get it from mum.”We even give it to them near the toy so they can’t tell the difference between it and their mother – it’s a really good result.”The meerkat is a member of the mongoose family and is native to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa.They are renowned for how they act as groups and it is their social behaviour that has seen the species become so popular in recent years.

The BBC’s Meerkat Manor became a surprise overnight success story when it first aired in September 2005, and has a slew of famous fans, including Noel Gallagher.But the animals have really shot to fame in the past few months thanks to a TV advert campaign by insurance company Compare the Market.com.In them meerkat Aleksandr vents his frustrations over internet users visiting his website Compare the Meerkat.com by mistake.But in reality the animals are less intelligent and Mr Rowlands, whose business takes creatures into schools for lessons and rescues hurt critters, explained why they were alone for now.He said there was a very good reason why the babies had to have been separated from their dad.

“At around six weeks old we are going to wean them away from their cuddly mum, as they would be in real life,” he said. “That’s when we can hopefully put them back in with their dad.”Until they are a bit older there is the possibility that the father might think they were not safe and kill them. The way we have done this with the surrogate mum has been absolutely idea.”

(source)

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