TUCSON, AZ — Days after a female African elephant was born at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, zookeepers were welcomed with another birth, though one from a much smaller animal -- meerkats.
On April 6, a 295-pound female African elephant was born at the zoo. Three days later, five newly-born meerkat pups were found in their habitat being cared for by their moms and dad.
It is the first time that meerkats have been born at the Tucson Zoo. The meerkats came to the zoo in 2017 part of a recommended breeding program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo said.
Adam Ramsey, animal care supervisor at Reid Park Zoo, said the pups' moms and their dad -- all first-time parents -- are doing an "excellent job of parenting." He said in meerkat societies both mom and dad share the responsibilities of raising their offspring. (Fun fact: a group of meerkats is referred to as a "mob."
“Both females are nursing, grooming and cuddling the babies to keep them warm," he said in a news release.
When born, baby meerkats have very little hair and their eyes and ears are closed, the zoo said. To maintain a low-stress environment for the pup and parents, they have been moved to a "quiet, cozy and secluded" place at the zoo away from their exhibit where they will stay for at least 12 weeks.
Keepers are also giving the meerkats their space to raise the pups because meerkats are typically sensitive to disturbances, the zoo said.
“We are proud of our new little family and can’t wait for the pups to make their public debut,” said Nancy Kluge, president and CEO of Reid Park Zoo, in a statement.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo is currently closed to the public.
YOU CAN HELP NAME THE ELEPHANT
As for the elephant's name, the zoo has come up with three names and has asked the public to vote for their favorite. People can vote for one of three names at the Arizona Daily Star's website. Voting closes at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22. The winning name will be announced that afternoon.
Mapenzi - means "beloved" in Swahili
Amani - means "peace" in Swahili.
Zawadi - means "gift" in Swahili.
As of Monday evening, Mapenzi was leading the vote.