Meerkats use wildlife photographer as scouting perch

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A meerkat seeks high vantage points, like at the end of Will Burrard-Lucas’ camera, to keep an eye open for predators. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

Of all the wild animals he has photographed, Will Burrard-Lucas has never encountered a species that utilized his body to get a higher vantage point to scout for predators.

Unlike lions, leopards, and elephants—animals requiring Burrard-Lucas to deploy his Beetle-Cam creation to photograph them up close—the meerkats of Botswana proved an easy "get" for the British wildlife photographer, who enjoyed a close encounter with the social animal.

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Baby meerkats check out a camera. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

"It was a completely unique experience," Burrard-Lucas told GrindTV Outdoor in an email. "I have photographed habituated animals before, but they rarely climb all over you. Meerkats, on the other hand, like to get high vantage points so that they can scan for predators. This means they are more than happy to jump on your head if they can!

"The babies were also wonderful, and, since I was able to spend so much time with them, they were totally fearless of me!"

Along with several stunning photos of the "charismatic" and "cute" meerkats, Burrard-Lucas posted a video with his newfound friends in the Makgadikgadi Pans region of Botswana:

"These meerkats are completely wild, but over time they have become habituated to humans," he wrote in his blog. "This means it is possible to gain their trust and get really close to them. When people are around, these clever little creatures take full advantage of the situation and will sometimes climb on top of the nearest person for a better view out over the long grass. Sometimes they just decide that sitting on a warm human is more comfortable than sitting on the coarse sand!"

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A meerkat enjoys the company of the wildlife photographer. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

Meerkats, a member of the mongoose family, are social animals that live in large groups. When hunting for food, one meerkat becomes a sentry while the others search for food such as lizards, snakes, scorpions, and spiders. The sentry makes peeping sounds that assure the coast is clear, but when danger approaches, it begins barking loudly or whistling.

For Burrard-Lucas, photographing meerkats was pure joy, but proved a bit problematic.

"Trying to photograph animals that jumped on me whenever I got too close was certainly a challenge that I wasn't used to facing," he wrote. "Not that I was complaining!

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Meerkats climbed all over the wildlife photographer, making it more difficult for him to take photos. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

"One of the highlights of my time in Botswana was getting to spend time with some adorable three-week-old baby meerkats. These tiny babies first emerged from the den a day or so into my trip, and after that I spent a lot of time with them, so they became very comfortable around me. In fact, it wasn't long before they were treating me like their own personal plaything!"

Check them out below.

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Baby meerkats stick together. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

 

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Meerkats stand upright on their hind legs not only to search for food, but also to keep an eye out for predators. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

 

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Meerkats huddle together. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

 

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Baby meerkats, like their parents, are social around humans. Photo courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas

 

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