A ZOOKEEPER says he is “absolutely delighted” after he discovered a meerkat had given birth to two “meerkittens”.

Mark Kenward, zoo animal manager at Drusillas Park in Alfriston, described the news as “very special” as it coincided with the birth of four prairie dog pups at the park.

Meerkats Tamu and Tyson welcomed their twin pups on May 12 and the pair have kept their youngsters very closely protected.

The Argus: Prairie dog babies have been born at DrusillasPrairie dog babies have been born at Drusillas

The “meerkittens” have now started to leave the den alongside their other family members, with a babysitter supervising them at all times.

Keepers at the park believe the prairie dog pups were also born around the middle of May. However it is difficult to work out an exact date as the newborns do not pop up from their burrow until they are around six weeks old.

Mark says the new arrivals are all showing signs of healthy progress and can regularly be seen play fighting.

He said: “We don’t know the sex of the babies and they have not yet been named, but we are hoping visitors will be able to help with some inventive name suggestions soon.

“Both little families are all doing really well. Our youngest Colobus monkey baby Kylo is in the enclosure next to the meerkat pups and he’s really enjoying watching them play.”

Meerkats are very sociable creatures, living in complex underground burrows in highly organised groups.

Only one pair of meerkats will breed within a mob, giving birth to two to five young at a time.

However, all the members of the group will help to look after the youngsters and share the responsibility of raising the pups.

Keepers say the brothers and sisters of the new arrivals can be seen helping out with duties already.

In the wild, meerkats are native to south-west Africa and are members of the mongoose family.

Prairie dogs are native to prairies and open grasslands in North America.

They live alongside one another in underground burrows, with nurseries, sleeping quarters, and even toilets.