The meerkat (Suricata suricatta) is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family, living in the dryer regions through Central and South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan" of about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.
Zoos are increasingly recognising their role both in conservation and in education, becoming more naturalistic in environment, focusing more on species preservation and scientific research and less on entertainment. The pressure of vanishing and unprotected habitats worldwide forces the consideration of captive management, as for many species - zoos are likely to be the last stop on the way to extinction.