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Lookout groundhogs, Chehaw has Asante

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Asante the official Groundhog Day prognosticator for Chehaw looks around for his shadow at about 10:05 a.m. Saturday. He didn’t see any shadow so he signaled his three brothers, his “mob,” to “C’mon out and play. It will be an early spring guys!”

Asante the official Groundhog Day prognosticator for Chehaw looks around for his shadow at about 10:05 a.m. Saturday. He didn’t see any shadow so he signaled his three brothers, his “mob,” to “C’mon out and play. It will be an early spring guys!”

ALBANY, Ga. -- Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog? We don't need no stinking groundhogs. Chehaw has Asante the meercat.

While Phil might be the most famous groundhog on Groundhog Day, Asante is smarter, more accurate and better looking than any groundhog.

"If Asante reaches his sentry point for his family, his 'mob,' and doesn't see his shadow," said Jackie Entz, Chehaw education coordinator, "he'll signal his brothers to come out and we'll have an early spring."

True to form Asante poked his head out of the meercat-size doorway, stood up and didn't see his shadow. He signaled his three brothers that an early spring is on its way.

The meercats in the zoo section of Chehaw park came out to romp, stare at visitors and eat crickets provided by Entz for children to throw to them.

According to ncdc.noaa.gov, Punxsutawney Phil also predicted a short winter. In a conflicting report from Atlanta's groundhog General Beau Lee, Beau saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.

Reached for comment Asante could only let a low growl and say, "What do you expect from someone north of the gnat line. He is a Yankee."

Last year, the first year Asante took on the role of weather forecaster, he also predicted a short winter, Entz said. "And he was right."

About a dozen people mostly children came out to see Asante and the other meercats predict the weather and just look, well, cute.

The Pflepsen children, Sarah and Capper, said they thought the meercats were pretty and hoped the weather prediction was correct.

"This is fun to take the children to Chehaw for this," said baby-sitter Dottie Ruth Mitchell. "It is a fun outing. Everybody else has groundhogs. We like the meercats."

According to Morgan Seegmueller, Chehaw membership coordinator, meercats are small burrowing animals. They live in large networks of tunnels, which they leave during the day.

Organized, one meercat, in the Chehaw 'mob' that is Asante, will be lookout or sentry. While the others in the mob play and forage for food, he watches the area for danger.

If he sees anything, he barks a warning and the other mob members will hide in holes they have leading to their tunnels. If there is no threat the sentry meercat will stop signaling and the fun begins again.

The meercats can be visited, along with many other animals, at the Chehaw Zoo from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.