Meerkats Wiki
Kalahari Meerkat Project

Commandos land-2.jpg

Years in Service
Tim Clutton-Brock
Kuruman River Reserve, South Africa
Famous Meerkat Mobs
Known For
Over 20 years of research on co-operative behaviour in meerkats
Also Known As
The Meerkat Manor filming site
Zurich University, Mammal Research Institute, Institute of African Ornithology, University of Minnesota and Cambridge University

The Kalahari Meerkat Project started in 1993 when researcher Tim Clutton-Brock wanted to study the evolution of co-operative behaviour in mammals. Meerkats were selecetd to be studied due to their social behaviour, duirnal activity (making them easy to track in daylight) and small, non-threatening size. The study site was originally set in the Gemsbok National Park, which covers South Africa and Botswana. But by 2001 a drought had hit the park and most of the meerkat mobs died out. The project was then moved to the Kuruman River Reserve in South Africa, between the borders of Botswana and Namibia. 

The Meerkats

The Kalahari Meerkat Project, often called the KMP, habituated various groups of wild meerkats. Earning the trust of the wild animals took many months. Eventually, researchers were able to follow the group's on foot and begin collecting data. Meerkats were trained to hop on scales for small rewards of boiled egg or fresh water. Individuals were marked with clipped fur or dark dye in specific locations, to allow more in-depth research of the roles each member carries out. In every group a dominant meerkat was fitted with a radio collar so the mob could be tracked. Each individual was given a code and a name (for easier identification). The ID code provided information on the meerkat's gender and birth group, For example, Flower's code was VWF026, the V stands for Van Zylsrus (after the nearest settlement to the KMP), the W stand for the group (Whiskers) and the 026 stands for the number of pups born in a group, meaning Flower was the 26th pup born into the Whiskers. The number is also applied to wild meerkats who emigrate into mobs. For example, Al Caztraz's ID was VBBM003, he was the third wild meerkat to join the Baobab. Researchers attained data by observing and recording meerkat behaviour, collecting weights of every member up to three times a day and collecting blood, urine or fecal samples. Researchers also conducted various experiments, such as creating fake predators or blocking a meerkat sentry out of view, to observe the responses of other members. 

Meerkat Groups

Drie Doring Mob

Kuruman River Reserve

The KMP has studied over 90 different meerkat mobs during their study at the Kuruman River Reserve site.

  • To see a list of currently studied groups visit Current Mobs
  • To see a full list of lost groups visit Lost Mobs.

The Irchel Mob

Gemsbok National Park

There were 16 mobs studied at the Gemsbok National Park site, but the majority of the groups died out during the drought. The remaining groups were no longer followed after 2001. The only named groups included:

  • South Mob
  • Sandile Mob

The Irchel Mob

The Irchel Mob is a group of captive meerkats at Zurich University in Switzerland. The mob was founded in February 2011 by one of the KMP researchers, Marta Manser. The group, which originally consisted of four meerkats, lives in a purpose-built enclosure designed to replicate the meerkat's natural habitat. The captive mob was set up to allow researchers to study communication and cognition processes in meerkats, without the need to travel all the way to the Kalahari Desert. It also allows the meerkats to be more closely observed at all hours, cameras are set up to prevent any behaviour from being missed.

Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project (FKMP)

The Friends of the KMP was founded in November 2007. They are a group of paying members who recieve additional, detailed information on the KMP's research and all of the meerkats being studied. The KMP Friends help fund the Project and can gather in an online forum to discuss their favourite meerkats. Friends also have the exclusive opportunity to visit the Project Site and meet their favourite wild meerkat mobs. Those interested can become a KMP Friend through the Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project website .

Life History of the Kalahari Meerkat Project

Meerkat Films

The Kalahari Meerkat Project has been a popular destination for wildlife documentaries. The meerkats were considered a favorable animal to film due to their eventful lives and ability to be followed. Below is a list of documentaries filmed at the KMP site:


Other Meerkat Projects

About Meerkats