24/7 WILD: Meeting the Meerkats

Written by Toby Strong, Witness Cameraman.

A week into our shoot and already there is a lot to tell.

Myself (cameraman), Stuart (producer), Gianni (Edit Assistant) and Tracy (Editor) are based on the Southern fringes of the Kalahari Desert.  We are filming a group of twenty-five meerkats, called “Whiskers”, led by Thundercat and Enili; the dominant male and female.  There are four pups, which are about a month old.  Swift, a pretty wee thing, is the size of an economy sausage roll, who flits about like a puff of thistle down.  Whilst here we are the guests of the Kalahari Project, with Joff being our guide and mentor.  Due to their research spanning more than two decades, the meerkats are completely habituated allowing us a unique opportunity to follow their lives from the middle of an amazing animal family.

Whiskers inhabit a beautiful broad valley, shouldered by dunes and dotted with gnarled trees and thorn bushes.  Temperatures fluctuate massively, calling for Harris Tweed first thing and a cooling glass of fresh lemonade at lunch.

Our day starts at about five with tea and toast before Stuart, Joff  and I head into the field to the burrow where the meerkats have overnighted.  This is my favorite time of day, as the soft, fat Kalahari sun rises skyward, setting light to the long grass and back-lighting the meerkats’ fur as they all stand like a furry fence warming their bellies.

Back at base Tracy and Gianni are editing and battling with all the technology necessary to transmit from this remote desert.  Their companions are a resident cape cobra, thousands of scorpions and a black widow in the loo.  We have had close calls, forays into enemy territory, run-in’s with other groups and cuteness enough to take your breath away and make you go ‘ohhhhhhhhhh’.


With more than 150 wildlife experts and filmmakers strategically positioned around the globe, 24/7 Wild will showcase real animals and their everyday fight for survival — as it happens, in real time. Each episode will focus on the babies of the animal world during the tumultuous spring month of May, when births are more common.  Tune in to 24/7 Wild: Giant Leaps: Monday, May 14th, at 9 p.m. et/pt. 


  1. Gail
    May 14, 2012, 7:28 pm

    Swift is such a beautiful and lovely creature, set against the struggle for her very existence. How hard it must be for Tony and the crew to witness, yet calmly film the way of the meerkats.

  2. Dawn Perez
    May 14, 2012, 7:48 pm

    I love watching this new show its great to see whts going wth our animals but at the same time i got really upset when trying to watch the killer whales attack they were showing to much of the equipment and boat and not enough of wht was going on wth the animals. Other than that the show is outstanding1

  3. b w
    May 15, 2012, 10:40 am

    you named two of the meerkats
    i remember the wiskers from meerkat manor
    it went of the air after the wiskers kept splitting in groups
    rocketdog was in charge of the main group while her sister took of with most of the pups after the old leader her mother flower died so how did this new meerkat become leader and what happend to rocketdog
    and the zappa ?

  4. Christine
    May 20, 2012, 6:23 pm

    What a great shot and story. The meerkats are so cute and special.

  5. betty
    May 21, 2012, 7:31 pm

    i have watched the meerkats for many yrs. i enjoy them and the big cat diaries.

  6. betty
    May 21, 2012, 7:37 pm

    they have a must watch and when they went off the air i kept watcng to see when they would be back on

  7. betty
    May 21, 2012, 7:39 pm

    i like the meerkats and all the animals on natgeo and animal planet

  8. Linda
    May 21, 2012, 8:43 pm

    Presenters have way too much face time — much more than the animals we tuned in to see. Was looking forward to this s series but last 2 weeks were a huge disappointment!

  9. Susan
    FL, USA
    May 25, 2012, 7:55 pm

    I am looking everywhere, and hoping fervently that NG will show the segments with Gremlin the capuchin monkey as she learns about the pecking order. Her slightly dazed expression after being slapped, evokes the desire to protect her but also to laugh hard because she looks incredibly silly at the same time. I would LOVE to see this clip on the site. I’ve been looking all over! please someone let me know if you have this segment of Nat Geo Wild 24/7 thank youuu

  10. wolfloversk
    June 18, 2012, 11:52 pm

    @b w, I remember reading that Rocket Dog died after she was hit by a car not long after season 4 aired.

  11. wolfloversk
    June 18, 2012, 11:52 pm

    also it seems I have missed this while I was at college, you wouldn’t happen to know if it will re-run any time soon, would you?