Lonely Meerkats Find Love Through the Internet
Meerkats are very much in the news just now. It seems the world hasn’t had enough of them. Following on from the UK’s unlikely advertising phenomenon, the animatronic meerkat Alexander whose catchphrase, ‘seemples’, has swept the country, comes the story of Lilly, the lonely meerkat and her very modern search for romance.
Modern Romance: Lilly the Meerkat Seeks Love
Lilly lives at Twinlakes Family Theme Park in Leicestershire. When she was left without a mate after an arrangement to bring in a companion fell through, the park’s owners took what appeared to be, in this age of modern communications, the obvious step: they tried online dating. And as there aren’t that many dating sites for meerkats – or any other animals – they had to set up their own.
Meerkat Match proved an instant hit, attracting an estimated 74,000 hits in only a month (Belfast Telegraph). The story was covered worldwide and Lilly even acquired her own Facebook page on which she begged viewers to ‘visit ww.meerkatmatch.com and post something nice on my blog?! Its in aid of finding me true love!’.
Modern methodology paid off: on 27 April 2010 she changed her status and the world learned that ‘Lonely Lilly has found love’. The new beau has been named Mr Darcy in a nod to a more old-fashioned age of romance, and has settled into the park and been accepted by his prospective mate.
Online Protests: The Story of Chico the Meerkat
Lilly’s story, which has been reported round the world, is not, however, unique. In August 2008 the Los Angeles Times was reporting on the problems of Chico, another lonely meerkat. Chico was bereaved by the death of his partner, Spanky, some months before; but unlike Lilly’s owners the keepers at Los Angeles Zoo had made no attempt to find him a new friend.
Visitors were concerned that Chico was lonely. Although meerkats are generally gregarious creatures who live in groups of up to 30 individuals (Arkive.org), led by a dominant pair, the zoo’s owners maintained that it was perfectly possible for Chico to live happily by himself, as long as his conditions were carefully managed.
This argument didn’t go down well with the zoo’s visitors and so, almost inevitably, modern media were drafted into use. In this case an online petition was set up, calling for Chico to be found a suitable companion or else for him to be relocated to another zoo with a thriving meerkat colony. The petition eventually generated almost 4,000 signatures.
Chico’s story ended happily too, as the zoo responded positively to the online campaign and set out to find their lonely meerkat a friend. By the end of February 2009, not only did Chico have a companion called Barky, but the zoo had acquired four other young meerkats. In the end everyone was happy – Chico and Barky found each other; the zoo’s customers got more meerkats to watch – and the zoo picked up a lot of good publicity. And, just as in Lilly’ case, it was all thanks to the world wide web.