Meerkats at Battersea Children's Zoo

    Shoppers help improve sunbathing for meerkats

    The meerkats at Battersea Park Children?s Zoo are to get more opportunities to sunbathe thanks to shoppers and the zoo?s local Waitrose store. The lovable meerkats are a popular attraction at the zoo and their enclosure is ready for some refurbishment. The Waitrose store at 196 Kings Road, Chelsea has generously donated ?344 donated through its Community Matters Scheme, which donates ?1000 per month. Over the next few months the meerkat enclosure will be spruced up, with some of the proposed refurbishments including the addition of cacti and a new platform for the meerkats to sunbathe on. The meerkats will also benefit from some new enrichment toys to encourage foraging.? Children can crawl through a tunnel to a viewing dome in the middle of the meerkat enclosure, giving them the chance to see the meerkats? antics close up. Waitrose already sends weekly donations of its unsuitable fruit and vegetables to the zoo for the animals through its Waitrose Way environmental scheme, and also encourages staff members to volunteer at the zoo from time to time. Animal Manager Anita Halligan said the support from the company is very welcome. ?We are continually striving to create the best environment for our animals at the zoo,? she said. ?Our 12 meerkats are very inquisitive creatures and love anything new or different in their enclosure. We also try to provide them with interesting and stimulating ways to find their food through enrichment activities and toys. We are very pleased that local shoppers and the Waitrose store on the Kings Road have given us so much support. The improvements will be much appreciated by the meerkats and visitors alike.? Waitrose Kings Road Section Operations Manager Baz Lynch said the company was pleased to support local good causes. "We have been running Community Matters for eight years and it?s a way of giving back to the community," she said. "We are pleased to be able to support local community groups and charities in this way." Meerkats are a desert animal from Southern Africa. They mostly eat insects but in the wild they also eat small snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs and small mammals. They forage as a family group or dig in the sand continuously for tasty grubs while one meerkat acts a sentry or guard to look out for any danger. The meerkats still carry out the same behaviour in the zoo as in the wild, with one family member standing guard while the rest of the family forage for food. Animal keepers Amy Parker, Catherine Brent and Ellie Short with Jimmy, one of the zoo?s meerkats, and a cheque from the Waitrose Community Matters fund. Battersea Children?s Zoo is a small, family-friendly zoo for young children and has a wide range of animals on show, from the pigs, donkeys, rabbits and chickens in the Barley Mow Farm to capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, ringtailed lemurs, mara, emu, coati, Asian short clawed otters and numerous bird species such as African grey parrots. Children can let off steam exploring the real, life-sized fire engine and there?s also a fun packed adventure playground, with a real tractor and giant sand pit with water features.? At weekends and during the school holidays, children can help the keepers to feed some of the farm animals and there are also feed time talks where children can find out the animals? names and some of their curious habits. There are also special events all year round, such as Snake Days, Hedgehog Adventures and other animal-themed activity days. Battersea Park Children?s Zoo is owned by conservationists Roger and Carol Heap, who also own the New Forest Wildlife Park in Hampshire and the Chestnut Centre Conservation and Wildlife Park in Derbyshire. Roger and Carol have been involved in wildlife conservation for over 30 years and are helping to protect endangered species through involvement in international captive breeding programmes.