A zookeeper holds two recently born Meerkat pups during thier media debut at Taronga Zoo. Photo: Reuters
The first meerkat pups born at Sydney's Taronga Zoo in nine years are venturing out into public view for the first time - with a little help.
Zanzibar and Nairobi needed a helping hand from their keeper as they left their nest box on Friday to explore the zoo's African-themed savanna enclosure.
The 28-day-old pups were an important breeding success and a new genetic line never before seen in Australasia.
"I'm extremely thrilled, I'm over the moon, I've been waiting for this for quite a long time now," said Taronga's meerkat keeper Bobby-Jo Vial.
"They make me very clucky - Mamma Meerkat, that's me."
The pups are the pride of the zoo's nine-member meerkat family, which now includes five females and four males.
Their mother Malawi was brought up from Mogo Zoo on NSW's south coast in 2007 along with other females to mate with Taronga's males.
It was part of an Australasian meerkat breeding program that saw zoos across the region swap animals to "get a bit more biodiversity," Ms Vial said.
After a gestation period of 77 days, the pair weighed about weighed around 40 grams at birth.
Nairobi now weighs 159 grams, while her brother Zanzibar is about 130 grams. Both will grow to about one kilogram once they reach maturity after twelve months.
"It's a very short gestation and the pups are actually born with their eyes closed, but they develop very quickly," the keeper said.
"They're already eating solid foods and displaying behaviours similar to adults. They're very precocious."
The meerkats have access to indoor burrows, tucked away not just from visitors' eyes while they overcome their shyness, but to also avoid becoming meals for passing eagles.
"Over the next two weeks they should start emerging from their indoor area ... so we really want to encourage visitors to just be patient as they're learning how to come out," Ms Vial said.
"We leave them with access to that safe area because being in Sydney, we have large aerial predators about and because the exhibit's quite open.
"Meerkats have to be doing exactly what they do in the wild - they have to be on guard, so we give them that option that they can run into their safe place."
Taronga's new meerkat pups venture out | smh.com.au