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Bristol Zoo reveals its new ‘Meerkat Lookout’ - 21/02/11

Bristol Zoo Gardens’ new meerkat exhibit, called Meerkat Lookout, has been officially unveiled to the public today (Monday).

The state-of-the-art enclosure was opened by 11-year-old Joe Romain, from Brentry, who cut the ribbon after winning a competition run by the Bristol Evening Post to name the new attraction.

Builders have been hard at work over the winter months, constructing the meerkats’ new £100,000 home. At 152 square metres in size, it is over three times bigger than the previous enclosure, with space for up to 25 meerkats.Joe Romain with senior keeper, Matthew Webb

It has indoor and outdoor areas for the meerkats and the public, a tunnel and two viewing domes for visitors to get up-close to the animals at eye-level. It even has cameras hidden inside the meerkats’ nest boxes so visitors can see them playing or sleeping even when they are off show. The nest box cameras can also show visitors when the meerkats have produced babies.

Competition winner Joe, a pupil at Brentry Primary School, is thrilled that his suggested name, Meerkat Lookout, has been chosen for the Zoo’s newest enclosure.

His mother, Anna, explained: “I suggested that Joe enter the competition because he loves coming to Bristol Zoo and he is interested in all kinds of animals and knows a lot about them. He wants to work with animals in some capacity when he grows up, and he loves watching all the television documentaries about them. He was really excited when he found out that he had won this competition.”

The ribbon cutting ceremonyThe indoor enclosure is heated and includes warm rocks that provide localised additional warmth for the meerkats. There are large sandy areas as well for them to dig and forage and off-show sections where they can rest and sleep.

Dr Bryan Carroll, the Director of Bristol Zoo, congratulated Joe on winning the competition. He said: “We received lots of very good names for our new exhibit and we had a tough time choosing between them all, however Meerkat Lookout was ultimately our favourite.”

He added: “We chose it because it sums up what the enclosure is all about – it’s a fantastic exhibit where visitors can ‘look out’ at the meerkats from a number of vantage points - inside their new house, in their outdoor area, in the viewing tunnels, or via the television screens which show the meerkats in their nest boxes. It also describes how meerkats tend to take it in turns to perch on top of high points in their environment to act as a sentry, or ‘lookout’, for the whole group.”

The exhibit will feature as many energy saving devices as possible in line with the Zoo’s commitment to sustainability. A viewing panel inside the entrance of the building will show the sheep wool insulation that’s used throughout the building.  

Meerkats inside their new houseThe all-weather exhibit is the highlight of wider work currently underway to refresh and renew the southern part of the Zoo, near the Herbaceous Border. 

Meerkats are highly social animals, native to southern Africa. They live in large, tight-knit groups called mobs or gangs, and they take turns to do duties such as baby-sitter for the young, hunt and sentry duty, for the benefit of the group as a whole.

For more information about BristolZoo Gardensvisit the website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk or phone 0117 974 7300.

ENDS

For more information please contact Bristol Zoo’s press office:

Lucy Parkinson, T: 0117 974 7306, or email: lparkinson@bristolzoo.org.uk
Vanessa Hollier, T: 0117 974 7309, email: vhollier@bristolzoo.org.uk

Notes to the Editor:

Slender-tailed meerkats

  • Meerkats are native to Southern Africa, in places like the Kalahari Desert, Namibia and Botswana.
  • Meerkats are active by day, taking shelter in their warm burrows against the chill of the night.
  • They are sociable animals, living in groups of about 10-20, called gangs, mobs or colonies.
  • Gangs are tight-knit, and gang members take turns to do duties such as baby-sitter for the young, hunt and sentry duty, for the benefit of the group as a whole.
  • Meerkats have two to five young in a litter, each weighing about 30g and without much fur.
  • The young emerge from the burrow at four weeks and are weaned at seven to nine weeks old.
  • In captivity meerkats can live up to 12 years old, but much less in the wild.
  • The meerkats at Bristol Zoo have a varied diet, including crickets, locusts, mealworms, fruit, vegetables, eggs and mice.

BristolZoo Gardens

  • Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day. 
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work. 
  • In 2011 Bristol Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary and wants to do more than celebrate.
  • Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes   all over the world, showed 40 millionschool aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.
  • Throughout 2011 we’re bring people, businesses, charities and wildlife together to share amazing experiences that raise awareness and funds to save threatened wildlife and places. To find out more, visit www.bristolzoo.org.uk/whats-on
  • Throughout 2011 we will be focusing our efforts on raising funds and awareness in support of gorilla conservation.
  • Throughout 2011 Bristol Zoo will support theEuropean Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ape Campaign.The campaign aims to make a significant and lasting contribution to the continued survival of apes and their habitats, and is being led by Dr Bryan Carroll, the Director of Bristol Zoo.
  • To find out more about the EAZA Ape Campaign visit the Zoo website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk/conservation-campaigns.
  • Bristol Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. 
  • Itemploys over 150 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work. 
  • Bristol Zoo supports – through finance and skill sharing - 15 projects in the UK and abroad that conserveand protectsome of the world’s most endangered species.
  • In 2010 Bristol Zoo Gardens set up a Conservation Fund to raise vital funds to help care for threatened animals and plants – both in the Zoo and through the conservation work we do in the UK and around the world.
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.