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The Kalahari Meerkat Project started in 1993, the founder Tim Clutton-Brock and his team needed the subjects inorder to carry out their study about them. The purpose of the foundation of the project is for the research,study and data collection of the animals beeing observed which contribute to the aim of the project which is to identify the social organization,coorperative behavior and breeding success of the animals. The subject animals beeing studied are meerkats. Inorder for the team to get any progress with the project, they needed the animals to accept their presence as part of their daily scenery and rather not intreprate the human observers as a threat. Meerkats are wild animals in the Kalahari and therefore it was impossible to for the team to simply approach a group, a process known as Habituation needed to be in progress.


Habituation

The observers could not get anywhere near the wild group so inorder to carry out their study, they needed to habituate the meerkats. To habituate is in simple terms, meaning to make the meerkats accept human company and treate them as part of the scenery. The purpose was not to try and tame the animals, but to make them know that the observers were not an immidiate threat. That was when Tim's team met up with Grant McLlrath, one of the technicians who was based at the ranch, was particularry adept at teaching meerkats to tolerate humans.
Kleintjie drinking

Getting the meerkats to adjust to drinking through a rabbit fetcher

He developed a range of reassuring calls that helped to differentiate the observers from hunters or farmhands who might have dogs with them. In addition, the team eventually managed to find a supply of radio transmitters small enough to be put onto a collar worn by one meerkat individual of the group. After the team had caught and collared a member, they could then track the group when it ran away from them, joining it at whichever burrow it when to. The team were also able to entise the meerkats through the weigh procedure by hardboiled eggs. The meerkats seemed to relish them and could easily be tempted to go ontop of the weigh scale and associate the presence of the observers with the food source and therefore learned to appreciate their company. Also the team would entise them with water through rabbit drinker bottles and the meerkats would willingly climb ontop of the scale to have a chance to drink through the rabbit drinker bottle. With radio-collars,hardboiled eggs,drinking fitchers and Grant's expertise in habituating animals, the project was in progress and before long the team had habituated groups. Some groups took longer to habituate than others. A group named Hoax took 8 months of habituation and another group named Hoppla still remained semi-habituated.

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