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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Cold remedy stops meerkat fights
Paultons Park meerkat
Staff hope the meerkats will be able to breed at the park
Animal experts from a family theme park have discovered an ingenious new way to stop their meerkats fighting, by using a humble cold remedy.

The staff at Paultons Park near Romsey, Hampshire, were concerned that their two existing meerkats would fight with three new arrivals.

They realised a decongestant rub, normally used to ease cold symptoms, could mask the African animals' scent.

In the wild, meerkats normally attack newcomers to a group.

The five animals at Paultons Park have had the strong smelling rub applied to their noses to hide their scent long enough for them to get used to each other without any arguments.

Baby hope

Livestock manager Geoff Masson said: "It is normally extremely difficult to integrate new meerkats into an existing group - their usual instinct is to try to attack any newcomers.

"However, thanks to a suggestion from our vet, Kate Chitty, we were able to neutralise all odours by using a little of the VapoRub on the nose of each meerkat.

"The meerkats then all smelt the same to each other and gladly accepted the new arrivals."

The new animals, which came from zoos in Bristol and Norfolk, seem to be settling into their new home, Mr Masson said.

He added: "We are very hopeful that things will continue to go well for our latest residents and that we will be celebrating the arrival of some baby meerkats before long."

The sociable and highly territorial animals originally come from southern Africa and a collection of five or more meerkats is called a mob or a gang.

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