Follow the pathway leading into the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo and you’ll come upon some of the busiest and most interesting animals in the Zoo — at the Meerkat and Prairie Dog Exhibit. We brought these two distinct species together to demonstrate how animals from different parts of the world (a carnivore from Africa and a rodent from North America) can have similar traits, especially the social behavior and cooperation that allows them to survive.
The slender-tailed meerkats dwell in an exhibit simulating the native arid savanna home; complete with red soil, rocks and termite mounds. The black-tailed prairie dogs’ home replicates the prairies of the Great Plains; with tall grasses, plants and soil mounds.
The exhibit’s interactive features, which illustrate the interdependence between individuals in meerkat and prairie dog societies, show that people are social and interdependent, too, and therefore that people and animals are not so different after all!
The outdoor habitats enclosed by a low glass wall allow even the smallest visitor to connect with the animals nose-to-nose. Kids can experience what it is like to be these animals by pretending to be one – crawling in simulated burrows, foraging for “meerkat snacks” in a sandbox, using a viewing tube to scan the skyline for predators like a meerkat sentry, or warming themselves by sitting on heated rocks like the ones we use to help keep the animals warm in their exhibits. The cutaway model of a prairie dog den shows how the burrows contain nursery, nesting and latrine rooms. There’s even a drinking fountain that requires a buddy’s help to operate!