The day starts slowly and very early for one of the shyest and sweetest inhabitants in the wilderness of Southern Africa. It is the first day of a project that no one knows how it will end and for which there is no manual. We want to habituate a meerkat family. So we get up early, it is still dark and quite cold at this time of year. In the open jeep we sit about 50 meters away from the den. We know that meerkats live there, but since these small predators are very shy (they belong to the "Shy 5" along with aardvark, porcupine, bat-eared fox and aardwolf), we usually see them only very briefly and have no opportunity to observe them longer and learn about and from them.
The sun rises and in the first rays of the sun, the first head appears. We are immediately identified as a foreign body and are continuously eyed. Little by little the rest of the group comes out into the open, stands sunbathing on their hind feet, but does not let us out of their sight. After a good hour the little ones become restless and after the signal to leave comes, they set off to hunt and feed. In the process, the group stays pretty close together and they run away at full speed until we can't see them anymore. I am sure that the reason for this behaviour is due to our presence alone, but the reason will become clearer as time moves on and there is, even more, we should learn from the little ones over the next months.