Naming meerkats

Each meerkat is given a unique ID code (e.g. VLF021) at its birth, or when it is first identified. It then keeps this ID throughout its life.

  • the first letter of the code (“V”) stands for “Van Zylsrus”, to differentiate the animals at this study site from those at the Gemsbok Park (previous research location);
  • the second (and sometimes third) letter of the code is the initial of the group in which the animal was born (or where it was first identified) (e.g. L for Lazuli). Please note, some groups have double initials (e.g. Rascals = RR).
  • the next letter in the code denotes the animal’s sex (F or M). Pups are given the letter P until their sex is identifiable, then the P is changed to M or F.
  • the code ends with a three digit number which is simply allocated consecutively (i.e. VLF021 is the 21st animal to be named in Lazuli group).

As well as an ID code, each meerkat is given an individual name (e.g. Belgarion VLM001, Silks VVM001, Morgause VYF005, Flower VWF026, Yossarian VVM033 etc). These names are for day to day use, since they are for many researchers easier to remember than large numbers of codes. Litters of pups are normally named by the person working with the group. Once a meerkat is named, its name is seldom altered. No two living meerkats bear the same individual name.

The ID code is the name used most often in any observation notes taken by the researchers – one usually refers to VAF005, not to Morgause. This is because the ID code carries information which the personal name does not contain. However, in day-to-day work with the meerkats, researchers often use the individual names. Many of the meerkats of the early project days did not have an individual name, or it was forgotten.

Lists of the meerkats as per various dates can be downloaded via the right-hand menu. Please note that the names Meerkat Manor uses are sometimes different or even interchanged with the individual names used in the Project.


Meerkat Group names

The names of new groups are normally chosen by the Project team as a whole. All new groups must have a two-letter initial (e.g. RR for Rascals) because we have already used all the letters of the alphabet.

Litter codes

Each litter of pups born into the study population is allocated a standard litter code (e.g. VRR9902). The first “V” stands for Van Zylsrus, the next letter/s are the group’s initial/s, the following two digits indicate the year, and the final two digit number is allocated consecutively as each litter is born. Hence, VRR9902 was the second litter born into Rascals in 1999.
Aborted litters are also allocated litter codes (of a similar structure) but these run as a separate series and are flagged with an “A” at the end of the code.


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