Here at Buffelsdrift Game Reserve, we can’t help but have a soft spot for the small creatures that make up the fascinating Kalahari ecosystem. While they don’t have the awe-inspiring magnificence of their bigger cousins, tiny animals (from the dung beetle to the meerkat) are just as important a piece of the environment. Without them, vast ecological damage is inevitable. With this critical importance in mind, then, let’s take a look at the important place of the meerkat in the environment and the hearts of locals alike.
Do meerkats really matter?
It’s hard to equate the meerkat’s soft, fuzzy looks with their savage natures and fierce territorial instincts. While the world would undoubtedly be a sad place without them, it’s also difficult to imagine that something so tiny could have any type of profound impact on the environment around it- but the truth is quite a different thing.
The meerkat is one of the relatively few mammals that are well-adapted to the arid, semi-desert landscape of the Karoo. Desert and semi-desert are always a difficult niche to occupy. Nature provides few comforts, and even food and water resources can come under threat frighteningly easily. The meerkat occupies a critical leg of the ecosystem here, helping keeping nature ticking over the way she should.
So what do they contribute to the ecosystem?
Unlike mammals, bugs find it far easier to proliferate in harsh semi-desert conditions. Fortunately, we have tiny little predators in the meerkat, helping to keep the local insect populations under control and correctly balanced. This has always been of key importance in the ecosystem- but it’s become even more so as the Karoo has risen to prominence for farming activities and other human endeavours. Today they offer significant inroads into agricultural pest management in the area.
That’s not all they contribute, however. Meerkats are a key part of the predator-prey system of the Karoo. Without their presence here, many of our larger predators would not be able to survive. In turn, they help manage the invertebrate population of the area. Their burrowing and tunneling activities also contribute to soil enrichment and aeration in the harsh Karoo landscape.
Just as the smallest raindrop can eventually wear through rock, it’s sometimes the tiniest parts of our complicated natural ecosystem that contribute immensely. This is only part of the many reasons why conservation and ethical land use are so important to the team here at Buffelsdrift Game Reserve. Keen to know more about conservation efforts in the area? Be sure to get hold of our team today- we’re always happy to answer questions about our beautiful land.