Image: © Chris Watt Photography

Meerkat Family to Move in at Edinburgh Children’s Hospital


The Animal Facts Editorial Team


July 12, 2023 6:45 pm


Edinburgh, Scotland

A group of meerkats are readying to make the move to the NHS Lothian’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) with some assistance from The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo. The new arrivals are not seeking treatment but instead will serve as teachers within an outdoor classroom at the hospital.

The new program is currently in the planning stages with the new residents set to move in during 2024. Having meerkats at a hospital may seem unusual but the practice already occurs at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

Through a partnership with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC), NHS Lothian and RZSS young patients at the hospital will have the opportunity to reconnect with nature and learn about nature and the environment.

Roslyn Neely, CEO of ECHC, said: “Some children are too unwell or have been in hospital for so long that they don’t have the opportunity to engage with the outdoors, or interact with animals.


“Many of the children who visit the hospital care passionately about nature and the environment. Our programme will allow them to learn from experts while getting up close to the best teachers of all – the meerkats themselves.


“The wellbeing benefits of engaging with animals and using nature in the healing process are well documented, and there’s great excitement within the hospital in anticipation of our furry friends arriving.”

Keepers and vets from Edinburgh Zoo will retain responsibility for the meerkats and ensure they are in perfect health. Their new habitat will be built to replicate their environment. The addition of the meerkats will build on a weekly programme of educational activities at the RHCYP provided by Edinburgh Zoo. These include projects on penguins, pandas and tigers, all of which encourage children to think about their place in the world and the importance of wildlife within it.

David Field, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said, “Our conservation education programme has already been a great success and now we are taking this incredible next step by creating the only meerkat enclosure at a children’s hospital outside of Australia, making this a first in the UK and Europe.


“Being close to nature and animals can have a tremendous impact on people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. We also know that people and communities are more likely to help protect nature when they have had the opportunity to connect with our natural world.


“We are really looking forward to bringing a group of meerkats to live at the hospital next year and seeing the impact this will have for the children and their families.”

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More on Meerkats!

Meet the meerkats and get all the facts on these marvellous mongooses with our fact file.

Our Favourite Meerkat Fact!

Meerkats are capable of eating venomous snakes and scorpions as they have a level of immunity to their venom.

Image: © Chris Watt Photography

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