Meerkats are always fascinating to explore, and I’m very excited to present my writing project on them as part of my Animals as Media course with Dawnja Burris at The New School University’s School of Media in New York. Here is the Power Point presentation version. It will also be published on the Animal Instances online magazine in a couple weeks. Meerkat Universe – Presentation
From the African wilderness where they roam free as part of a mob to the world of media and human interconnectedness, meerkats are known as social animals that are often portrayed as unique and cheerful. In Afrikaans, the word “meerkat” means marsh or lake cat, although they are a family of mongoose.
With their lively nature, ability to walk on all four legs and also to stand tall like humans while observing their surroundings, plus endless curiosity that motivates them to investigate any event that catches their attention, meerkats are often shown in films, TV shows, books and commercials as anthropomorphic animals who value interactions. This enables humans to relate to the anthropomorphic meerkats they see on the screen or read about in modern literature, as the meerkats display human-like personalities like the actual animals.
Meerkats have also found their way into the human world. The most common “venue” is the zoo environment, where they are exposed to human visitors on a daily basis. In certain countries like the UK, Japan and Russia, they are able to form interactions with humans as pets, given it’s legal for them to be domesticated. There are also meerkat cafes where humans can enjoy their favorite beverages and snacks in the company of meerkats.
With my writing project, I aim to provide an exploration of the universe of meerkats, highlighting the way these non-human animals are represented in a number of media works, their characteristics in their natural habitat versus zoological and domesticated settings, how they are being viewed “as media” by humans in various environments as well as on social media, where they are being labeled as warm, welcoming creatures that makes humans want to be best friends and make connections with them, thus decoding their magic.
One of my favorite sections to compile has been “Meerkats on Media”, where references to Timon in The Lion King 1 1/2, the Animal Planet series Meerkat Manor in collaboration with the Kalahari Meerkat Project and Aleksandr the Meerkat are made.