Meerkat mannerisms

posted on 9th of december, 2008

Wild animals are notoriously difficult to photograph. The big boys - elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus - make great subjects but if you get too close you risk physical damage.

Antelope, such as kudu in South Africa and fallow deer in England, are nervous at the best of times. A quick glance is all you'll get, and if you haven't got your camera ready for that pin-sharp portrait, tough luck!

The primates can be tricky too. Baboons, for some reason, are hesitant about looking you in the eye, with the result that most photos show them looking away from the camera. And birds are possibly the most elusive of all. Every little twitch can blur your photo, and they never seem to stand still for a second.

But there are some wild animals which play the photography game nicely. One that comes to mind is the slender-tailed meerkat, a perky little suricate with an endearingly inquisitive nature.

It's this curiosity which makes them great subjects. If you interest them (and invariably we humans interest them a lot) they'll stand up on their hind legs and give you a big-eyed stare for ages, giving you more than enough time to take a few shots.

They are, for the most part, real characters of the natural world. Like penguins, they have the ability to transform hardened adults into simpering sentimentalists - there's something about their air of mischievous intelligence that makes them irresistable.

On one occasion, I was fortunate enough to catch two meerkats acting very affectionately towards each other - being almost human-like, in fact. They were perched atop an antheap, in the traditional sentinel position, and within a few minutes they had looked at each other in the eyes and used each other as paw rests as they scoured the skies for danger.

I got a series of shots in poor, harsh light with a mediocre lens - it was one of those moments you wish you'd just had a quality lens as the sun broke through first thing in the morning.

That's the beauty of wildlife photography; you just never know what you're going to get next.

Comments (2)

Posted by Georgeskyrillos on December 10, 2008
Very nicely written, & I love that photo!
Posted by Asklar on December 09, 2008
I love shooting Meerkats. I think it is great how they stand on their hind legs... it makes for a great shot.

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Photo credits: Davidgarry.

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