(sorry it took so long to respond!)
I’m so glad you asked! Simply put, without Meerkat Manor, this blog would not exist.
Like you, and many other people I know, my love for meerkats started the second I saw the first episode. The show did a really good job, in my opinion, of reminding us that, while they were cute foot-tall fuzzy critters with names and personalities, they were also fierce wild animals that had to fight to survive. I also really liked how it wasn’t just educational or just for entertainment, but an enjoyable mixture of both.
Although [and here is where it will get very opinionated], I will have to admit that things started going downill after the second season, and by the fourth season (along with the change in narrator for the US, which I was not happy with imo) the show seemed to be losing its original charm. It seemed to lean towards a drama-fied, soap opera retelling of fictional characters, rather than a direct documentation of real-life meerkats.
Not long after the third season aired, I was lucky enough to win a free membership for the Kalahari Meerkat Project (the crew studying and filming the meerkats). I received some material on the meerkats seen in Meerkat Manor, including a “rolecall sheet” (which documented which IRL meerkats portrayed which characters on the show- something I didn’t realize was a thing!), a brief history of the Whiskers clan, and a full list of all the meerkats that were born into or joined the Whiskers clan at the time. Before then, I had believed everything on the show, and was dismayed to learn that things were not always accurate.
One thing I was surprised to learn was that many of the actual names of the meerkats differ from the names used in the show, and some of the characters were portrayed by several different meerkats. For example, “Tosca” on the show was actually portrayed by a meerkat named Baddiel (who also portrayed “Ella” in “Ella, a Meerkat’s Tale”), and Machu Pichu portrayed “Dudley” in season 1, “Columbus” in season 2 (after the original meerkat that portrayed Columbus was hit and killed by a vehicle), then later as “Mitch” (after the original Mitch had disappeared) in season 4.
Not gonna lie, I felt a bit cheated and disappointed. I still loved the show, but after knowing that things were not as they seemed, it wasn’t the same. I didn’t understand why they would alter or hide some of the real-life events; to me, it felt like they were “shielding” us from a harsh and/or boring reality. It felt more like fiction and less like nonfiction. Then again, all in all Meerkat Manor was just another show that needed high views and ratings I guess.
Still, I can’t hate Meerkat Manor for sparking my love for meerkats. There’s no such thing as a perfect show, but overall despite its flaws Meerkat Manor was a really really good show.