The Kalahari Meerkat Project is based in the Kuruman River Reserve in the Northern Cape, just south of the border of Botswana. There is infinite beauty in this semi-arid space dominated by barely vegetated fossil sand dunes and camel thorn trees, set on either side of the Kuruman River.
The project studies the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of cooperative behaviour in meerkats.
Whilst the aim of the project is research visitors are welcome to visit the little creatures, now virtually immune to the presence of people after having being studied for so long. Which does not mean that they will eat out of your hand – that is not the objective of the project. They are merely comfortable around humans, not tame. As a result both film crews and wildlife photographers have filmed this group of meerkats who have already starred in major documentaries like Life of Mammals with Sir David Attenborough for BBC.
The project, which originally started in 1993 in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, studies 18 groups of meerkats, six of which live exclusively in the reserve – the rest make forays beyond the reserve into adjacent farmland.
Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project is an independent effort to share information about the meerkats and to raise support for the project via ‘Friends’ packages. This is one of the ways in which people can visit the meerkats – by becoming a ‘friend’ of the project.
Be aware if you venture out here that temperatures in dune country are extreme. In summer they can climb to over 40°C, whilst in winter temperatures can plummet below 0°C. Take along hats, sunscreen, water and a good pair of walking shoes, as you will have to walk over several sand dunes to reach the meerkat burrows.
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