Meerkat Manor is not a programme I watch religiously but one I enjoy immensely when I manage to catch it on whilst channel hopping.
It is a documentary about Meerkats as you may have guessed but it seems to be so much more than a wildlife representation of an amazing animal, and indeed I personally think it is an animal soap opera with all the drama of the human kind and none of the annoying cheesy storylines.
The programme centres around one group of Meerkats in particular, but does feature other groups within the storyline of the main group. The star group of Meerkats are called The Whiskers who are about 40 strong and were led (until recently) by the amazing dominant female Flower. Unfortunately Flower has now died but the episodes showing on Animal Planet at the moment are when Flower was still in charge of The Whiskers and she really is an amazing leader.
The other groups we see on the show are The Commandos, an aggressive and brutal group, led by Hannibal the ruthless male dominant leader. We also see a couple of other smaller groups of Meerkats who interact with The Whiskers through various meetings some good some bad.
Based in the South African Kalahari Desert, Meerkat Manor is on its third season and anyone who has watched it religiously or even sporadically, like me, will have grown to love the antics of the group of Meerkats. I especially like the way the show is narrated. Bill Nighy has a really engaging voice and I thoroughly enjoy the way he describes what is going on to us. Sometimes it is very difficult to know what the Meerkats are doing in terms of their actions and with his help we get such an easy picture of their thoughts and reasons for doing things. For instance in one episode, Flower did something awful, and killed the new born pups of one of the other females in her group. I thought this was an awful action to take and although it is harsh, due to the narration it becomes understandable why such drastic action was taken and you can’t hold any resentment towards Flower as a result of the explanation told through Nighy.
The Kalahari Desert is a cruel and unforgiving place, especially through the dry spells, when the insects that Meerkats love to eat are buried deep under the ground where it is moist. I am always amazed at how any animal can survive conditions such as these but the Meerkats seem to have so much more against them then just the surrounding nature and landscape. They also have to deal with in-house fighting and dilemmas such as pregnant subordinate females. They have to deal with rival groups living in fairly close proximity to them. The Whiskers have just relocated after being defeated by their old nemesis Hannibal and his group, The Commando’s. Finding a new area to stake as their own The Whiskers have settled down to a new life, only to find they have a new set of neighbours from hell a group called The Zappa. They are only 14 strong in numbers but are ready to do battle and get what they can in hard times.
As with all documentaries worth their salt the cameraman is also an extremely valuable member of the team. A good angle on the camera can make or break a documentary and in this case the close up shots and amazing sequences the camera man catches through his lens are remarkable. I think because the Meerkats have been filmed for so long now they are completely used to the team being around them and carry on as normal allowing for some wonderful scenes of totally natural behaviour to be filmed.
I absolutely adore this programme as the Meerkats are such characters and I love to watch their daily struggles, behaviours and challenges through the exquisite camera work and the comfortable voice of Bill Nighy. I enjoy the closeness of the group of animals and how they interact and look out for each other but it is equally marvellous to watch how they keep their social structures within a potentially life threatening situation.
Showing on Animal Planet on Fridays at 8.30pm this show is definitely worth at least one watch if you like documentaries. I am sure this will engage you to watch more and discover your own love for these amazing little animals with their harsh lifestyle but huge love for each other. It is sad, happy, horrific and educational all rolled into one and it’s definitely one of my favourites.
Summary: RECOMMENDED x