Meerkats rescued from exotic pet trade find new home at college in Suffolk
- Credit: JEN DOW
Two adorable meerkats are starting a new life at a college in Suffolk after being rescued from the exotic pet trade.
Billy and Bobby are settling in well at Suffolk Rural, formerly Otley College, with students looking forward to learning more about them.
The college, near Ipswich, wants to highlight the fact that meerkats should not be taken on as family pets - and warn anybody tempted by TV ads featuring the creatures to think again.
The animals’ arrival two weeks ago was down to a link with an animal park in the north of the UK, which tries to find suitable homes for species found living in unsuitable accommodation.
Jennifer Dow, a animal unit technician team leader, said: “We agreed to look after Billy and Bobby at the college and they have been settling in well.
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“They were initially quite nervous, so we have been keeping a close eye on them and most recently, we have been slowly introducing them to our students.”
MORE: Colchester Zoo forced to close during second lockdownMiss Dow added: “I think the popularity of meerkats has gone up because of the insurance adverts.
“They may look all cute and cuddly, but it’s important to know where they come from, and it’s also good to get the message out to others that they are not suitable as everyday pets.
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“From our point of view, these guys will be ambassadors to help explain the ins and outs of the exotic pet trade.
“It will also be useful for students to work with these animals and find out about their living and eating habits – particularly those who are hoping to eventually work in the zoo industry.”
The new arrivals are currently living inside the animal centre at the college.”
More: Students at Suffolk Rural care for hedgehog hospital patientsHowever, Suffolk Rural plans to adapt an aviary to give the meerkats a free run of a heated indoor area, with an outdoor space attached.
Miss Dow said the department has had a good year, despite the challenges of Covid-19. Other animals which have arrived at the college include a chinchilla, an African pygmy hedgehog and a scorpion.
“We continue to partner with Jimmy’s Farm working with pigs and goats, and we have plans to improve some of our outdoor areas. All these link-ups help give our students new experiences and skills they can use when they start working in industry.”