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'Meerkat mom' learns familial love through cuddly animals

The China Post--Remember the tiny wide-eyed desert mammals that always travel in groups, stand on their hind legs when on the lookout, are striped on their backs and patched on their tummies, and were featured in the Animal Planet show “Meerkat Manor” (狐獴大宅門)? Remember how the documentary's meerkat family Whiskers was constantly caught up in competition with the Lazuli and Commandoes, then later on with the Zappa and Aztecs? Remember Flower, Rocket Dog, and Ella, the matriarchal leaders of the Whiskers?

If not, don't despair. One must never have forgotten Timon, the clever meerkat who, along with his jolly buddy Pumbaa the warthog made the phrase “hakuna matata” a world-famous saying through Walt Disney's”The Lion King.”

Lisa Wen (溫芳琳) not only remembers it all, she is absolutely in love with meerkats — utterly so to the point that when the “Meerkat Manor” series ended after its fourth season in 2008, she decided that she desperately had to find out about what had happened with Ella, the rest of the Whiskers, and their rival groups. Wen went out of her way to apply for a chance to visit the meerkats' habitat, and was eventually granted permission to step into the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, where the “manor” was documented, in 2011.

Family-oriented Creatures

One day in 2006, as she was browsing a website on the conservation of lions and their environment, a video of meerkats being preyed on by large birds caught her attention. Wen vividly described how, as the animals scurried from the eagle's attack, an older meerkat took a sharp turn around to pick up its slow baby sibling that was yelping in desperation. Wen said she was deeply touched by the altruistic love and care that the little stick-tail mammals showed for their family members.

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Ella, leader of the Whiskers meerkat family, stands on the lookout during Lisa Wen's first visit to the Kalahari Desert in 2011. To the right is Wen's painting of the pregnant ...

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