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Norwalk's Meerkats Staying Through Summer

NORWALK, Conn. – The outrageously cute rodent-like creatures now visiting the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will be staying longer than expected.

The aquarium is extending the Meerkats special exhibit – featuring six of the popular mammals – through at least Labor Day. The exhibit originally was scheduled to close next month.

"They're very cute and fun to watch," Judith Bacal, the aquarium's exhibits director, said in a statement. "We're excited to have them here for a while longer."

Meerkats were popularized by the comical sidekick Timon in Disney's "The Lion King" and celebrated in the Animal Planet television series "Meerkat Manor" from 2005 to 2009. They are members of the mongoose family and live in social "mobs" in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa.

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) live in cooperative societies, using a foraging strategy that includes adults taking turns to stand guard and watch for predators while the others eat. Generally, when you visit the aquarium, one meerkat will be perched at a high lookout spot while the others feed, play or nap.

Opened in May 2010, "Meerkats" features six sibling meerkats – three males and three females – born in July 2009 at the Utah's Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. Their aquarium exhibit offers the meerkats many opportunities for climbing, digging and exploring. A plastic viewing bubble lets children pop up right among the meerkats.

"Plus, to keep the meerkats happy and engaged, our animal-husbandry staff gives them new things to explore every day," Chris Loynd, the aquarium's marketing director, said in a statement. "So, on different days, you may see the meerkats swinging in a hammock, crawling through tubes or wrestling in cardboard boxes."

The exhibit has proven to be so popular that the aquarium installed a "meerkat cam" for visitors who want to check on the animals' activities remotely from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Meerkats" is made possible by Bank of America and Fifth Street Capital. It's within another Africa-related exhibit, "Africa: From the Desert to the Sea," which displays some of the lesser-known aquatic creatures of Africa, including lungfish, electric catfish and colorful cichlids and reef fish. "Africa: From the Desert to the Sea" also is sponsored by Bank of America and also is extended at least through Labor Day.

"Meerkats" and "Africa: From the Desert to the Sea" are included with Maritime Aquarium general admission, which is $12.95 for adults, $11.95 for seniors 65+, and $9.95 for children 2-12. For more information about the Maritime Aquarium's exhibits, IMAX movies and programs, go online or call 203-852-0700.

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