The meerkat or suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a 'mob', 'gang' or 'clan'. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 1214 years, and about half this in the wild. 'Meerkat' is a loanword from Afrikaans. The name has a Dutch origin but by misidentification. Dutch meerkat refers to the 'guenon', a monkey of the Cercopithecus genus. The word 'meerkat' is Dutch for 'lake cat', but the suricata is not in the cat family, and neither suricatas nor guenons are attracted to lakes; the word possibly started as a Dutch adaptation of a derivative of Sanskrit markaa = 'monkey', perhaps in Africa via an Indian sailor on board a Dutch East India Company ship.
Contributions by 220.127.116.11, Lycaon, and Tekana.