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Natural World

  • Season 32
  • 10 episodes
  • Nature

Episode 7: Meerkats: Secrets of an Animal Superstar


Meerkat pups Squirt and Weeny belong to one of the most famous animal families on the planet and are also part of a 20-year animal behaviour study. David Attenborough narrates the full story of the research, from the early days when it was a challenge to even get close to a meerkat to the latest revelations about these animals and their complex lives.


A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Yes, yes, they’re funny and fluffy and irresistably sweet, but try to get past that for a moment. Because although meerkats are the A-listers of the animal world – filmed for docusoaps, turned into toys, exploited for adverts – they’re complex wild creatures, too, with behaviour that teaches us intriguing lessons about teamwork.

David Attenborough comperes the meerkat story here, bringing us the science behind the fluff. It was thanks to an Attenborough documentary in 1993 that Cambridge zoologist Tim Clutton-Brock began a research project in the southern Kalahari desert that is still running 20 years later, and still unlocking secrets of the mini-mammals’ behaviour. For instance, they have a sophisticated repertoire of alarm calls that can convey messages such as “bird of prey approaching fast” as well as, presumably, “look out, the cameras are back”.

They exist in groups ruled by a ruthless matriarchy not averse to aggression, expulsion of rivals and, yes, infanticide where necessary. The film is full of such fascinating titbits, as well as an experiment with a stuffed jackal on wheels that looks like something out of Monty Python.

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NarratorDavid Attenborough


DirectorVirginia Quinn
Executive producerChris Cole
Series producerRoger Webb

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