WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian National Zoo is celebrating the birth of three new meerkats.
For the first time in 16 years, meerkat pups were born at the Small Mammal House on May 10.
When keepers reported for duty that Wednesday, they observed that 5-year-old Sadie had given birth overnight.
Officials say the pups are the first offspring for Sadie, but not for their father, 6-year-old Frankie, who has sired offspring before at his former zoo.
Meerkats are known to live in groups called mobs that can include as many as 30 individuals, with the average mob size around 10 to 15 individuals.
Visitors can go see Sadie and her new pups at the Small Mammal House at the zoo located on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.
At 14 days old, officials say the pups are starting to open their eyes and explore their habitat.
Officials say meerkat pups typically remain in an underground burrow for around three weeks out in the wild.
So, to encourage their natural behavior, a system of tubing (concealed within rockwork) runs along along the outskirts of their habitat in the Small Mammal House.
At the end of the tunnel, a nest box offers visitors a view of the meerkats’ underground sleeping chamber.
Officials say the day Sadie gave birth, she surprised keepers by bringing her pups into the main exhibit space.
National Zoo welcomes 3 new meerkat pups
Animal Care staff are leaving the mob to bond with and care for the pups without human interference.
Due to the hands-off approach, officials say it may be some time before they can determine the meerkats' genders.