Overview

Distribution

Range Description

The species is widespread in the central and western regions of southern Africa, reaching to about 15°N in south-western Angola (Crawford-Cabral 1989). It occupies mainly arid and semi-arid areas, but in parts, such as the fynbos biome of South Africa's western Cape Province, the species enters areas receiving higher precipitation and denser vegetation. The species has expanded its range over recent decades to the south-west where it reaches the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines (Stuart 1981). Expansion through South Africa's eastern Cape Province has been documented (Coetzee 1979). Status in Swaziland is uncertain, but they may occur in the south-west (Monadjem 1998), as the species occurs in adjacent regions of north-western KwaZulu-Natal (Rowe-Rowe 1992); they are not confirmed from Lesotho, but may occur (Lynch 1994). Previous records of its occurrence in western Zimbabwe (Roberts 1951, Coetzee 1977) and Mozambique (Travassos Dias 1968) have not been substantiated, and it is considered unlikely that these records are valid.
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Geographic Range

Cape foxes (Vulpes chama) are found in sub-Saharan African desert. The species ranges from the southern tip of South Africa and Cape Province, north through Namibia, Botswana, Transvaal, Natal and into the Albany district. This is the only species of Vulpes in Africa that is known to range below the equator (IUCN, 1998).

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

V. chama is a small fox. Head and body length is 55 cm and height at shoulder is 36 cm. Males weigh about 2.6 kg and females are approximately 5% smaller than this. The pelage is gray-silver, with reddish head and forelimbs. There are white cheek patches, and black patches on the hind limbs. The ventral parts are whitish. V. chama has a bushy tail measuring about 34.4 cm, almost half the length of the head and body. (IUCN, 1998).

Average mass: 2.6 kg.

Average length: 55 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 4000 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
They mainly associate with open country, including grassland, grassland with scattered thickets, and lightly wooded areas, particularly in the dry Karoo regions, the Kalahari and the fringes of the Namib Desert. They also penetrate moderately dense vegetation in lowland fynbos in the western Cape, as well as extensive agricultural lands where they lie up in surviving pockets of natural vegetation during the day and forage on arable and cultivated fields at night (Stuart 1981). Along the eastern flank of the Namib Desert, Namibia, they occupy rock outcroppings and inselbergs, ranging out onto bare gravel plains at night (Stuart 1975). In Botswana, they have been recorded from Acacia-scrubland, short grassland and especially on the fringes of shallow seasonal pans, as well as cleared and overgrazed areas (Smithers 1971). In the central Karoo of South Africa, they occupy the plains as well as the low rocky ridges and isolated rock outcroppings. In the Free State, Lynch (1975) found that they were most abundant in areas receiving less than 500 mm of rainfall, although in KwaZulu-Natal they have been recorded between 1,000 and 1,500 m above sea level, where rainfall is roughly 720–760 mm (Rowe-Rowe 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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V. chama prefers open habitat such as arid savannas as well as semi-desert scrub, and avoids forests (IUCN, 1998).

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

V. chama is known to cache food. The diet of this species consists mainly of small rodents, rabbits, insects and beetle larvae, and small reptiles. V. chama also scavenges, and has been known to take livestock, which tends to get them into trouble with humans (Nel, 1984). The different distances between canine teeth, measured from bite marks, between the cape fox (15mm) and the black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) are used in determining which species is responsible for killing livestock (IUCN, 1998).

Animal Foods: mammals; reptiles; carrion ; insects

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Cape foxes are sympatric with the aardwolf (Proteles cristata), the black-backed jackal (Canis meomelas), and the bat-eared fox (Octocyon megalotis) and therefore may limit their populations through competition. However, there is enough separation in activity times, space, and diet to allow for their coexistence (Bothma, 1984).

V. chama probably helps to regulate populations of small mammals through its predatory behavior, which in turn probably has an effect on the plant communities upon which such small mammals feed.

  • Bothma, J., J. Nel, A. MacDonald. 1984. Food Niche Separation Between Four Sympatric Namib Desert Carnivores. Journal of Zoology, 202: 327-340.
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Predation

Predation upon this species has not been documented. It is likely that large birds of prey and larger carnivores may take these foxes, especially the young. No anti-predator adaptations or behaviors have been noted in the literature.

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Known prey organisms

Vulpes chama preys on:
Insecta
Reptilia
Mammalia
Lepus capensis

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Lifespan has not been reported for this species

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: In the wild, these animals may live up to 10 years (Bernhard Grzimek 1990). Because longevity has not been studied in detail in captivity, their maximum longevity is unknown.
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Reproduction

These animals breed monogamously. The male and female form pairs in the spring. Pups are born in early summer months.

Mating System: monogamous

V. chama forms pairs in southern hemisphere winter months of July and August. The gestation period is 51-52 days with three to five pups a litter. Canids have one litter per year, but in some dens of the cape fox multiple litters have been observed. Pups are usually born in late spring to early summer (September–November) but cape foxes are known to have litters as late as December.

The male provides for the female for the first and second week after birth and both parents care for the young at the beginning. It is not known how long the male stays with the family group (Nel, 1984). Pups start foraging at four months, and become independent at 5 months. Sexual maturity is reached by 9 months (IUCN,1998).

Breeding season: Pups are usually born in early summer.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.

Range gestation period: 51 to 52 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average number of offspring: 4.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
274 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
274 days.

Both male and female care for the pups in the beginning, although the male may leave the family. Canids typically produce altricial young. Cape fox young stay near the den until they are able to follow the mother at about 4 months of age. They typically disperse around 5 months of age, and become sexually mature at 9 months of age.

Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
Hoffmann, M.

Reviewer/s
Sillero-Zubiri, C.

Contributor/s
Stuart, C. & Stuart, M.

Justification
The Cape Fox is widespread in the central and western regions of southern Africa, and has even expanded its range over recent decades. It is generally common to fairly abundant across much of its range, although problem animal control activities have resulted in population reductions in some areas. It is thought that populations are currently stable across their entire range and there is no reason to believe that the species meets any criteria for listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
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More than 2,500 individuals are killed annually, which is approximately 16% of the population. This is taking a toll on the population. Protected cape fox populations are in the Soetdoring Nature Reserve (1.3/km2) and the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve (0.65/km2, south) and north (0.12/km2) (IUCN, 1998).

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Generally common to fairly abundant across much of its range, although problem animal control activities have resulted in population reductions in some areas. Estimates are only available for South Africa's Free State province where an average density of 0.3 foxes per km² was estimated with a total population of 31,000 individuals (Bester 1982). Annual offtake resulting from problem animal control programmes averaged roughly 16% up to 1985, with no obvious declines in overall populations (Bester 1982). Range and numbers have increased in the south-west and east of South Africa (Coetzee 1979, Stuart 1981). Estimated population sizes or numbers are not available, but it is thought that populations are currently stable across their entire range.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to the species. Habitat loss/changes are not a major factor influencing the conservation status of the Cape Fox. In fact, in western Cape Province and elsewhere, changing agricultural practices have resulted in range extensions for this species, as well as for the Bat-eared Fox (Stuart 1981). Expansion of semi-arid karroid vegetation during the process of desertification, especially eastwards, has also resulted in range extensions of this canid. Heavy direct and indirect problem animal control measures do not seem to have had a major impact on populations of the Cape Fox, even though they have resulted in declines in some areas. The illegal but widespread and indiscriminate use of agricultural poisons on commercial farms poses the main threat (Stuart and Stuart 2013).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Not listed in the CITES Appendices. Occurs in many protected areas across its range, including a number of provincial and private nature reserves, as well as on game ranches in all South African provinces, although the species has a much more restricted range in Limpopo Province and KwaZulu-Natal (Stuart 1981, Rautenbach 1982, Lynch 1975, Rowe-Rowe 1992). In Swaziland, the species may occur in Nhlangano Nature Reserve in the south-west and pups have been successfully reared in Milwane Game Reserve (Monadjem 1998).

Although treated as a problem animal across most of its range, it is partially protected in several South African provinces, as it does not appear on the official lists of problem species. However, no permit is required from any authority to kill this fox in problem animal control operations. No protection measures are currently enforced and at the present time, this is not necessary.

Although the Cape Fox has been extensively studied in South Africa's Free State province (Lynch 1975, Bester 1982, Kok 1996), there is little information available elsewhere within its range. Aspects such as diet and reproduction are quite well known, but little information is available on aspects of social ecology and behaviour in the wild. Some investigation into the role, if any, this species plays in disease transmission is necessary.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These foxes are presumed to prey on livestock, in particular lambs. Farmers have permission to remove animals causing damage to livestock. Numbers have been abundant in the past but appear to be in decline since 1985 because of this (IUCN, 1998).

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pelts are used in fur blankets (IUCN 1998).

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Cape fox

The Cape fox (Vulpes chama), also called the cama fox or the silver-backed fox, is a small fox.

It has black or silver gray fur with flanks and underside in light yellow. The tip of its tail is always black.

The Cape fox tends to be 45 to 61 cm (17.7–24 inches) long, not including a 30 to 40 cm (11.8-15.75 inch) tail. It is 28 to 33 cm (11–13 in) tall at the shoulder, and usually weighs from 3.6 to 5 kg (8–11 lbs).

Habitat[edit]

It inhabits mainly open country, from open grassland plains with scattered thickets to arid to semi desert scrub, and also extending into fynbos. It is widespread in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa, occurring in most parts of the Western and Northern Cape provinces, the Eastern Cape (excluding the southeastern side), the Free State, western and northwestern KwaZulu-Natal and the North-West province. It also occurs in Lesotho, a high mountainous region.

Behavior[edit]

The Cape fox is nocturnal and most active just before dawn or after dusk; it can be spotted during the early mornings and early evenings. During the day, it typically shelters in burrows underground, holes, hollows, or dense thickets. It is an active digger that will excavate its own burrow, although it generally modifies an abandoned burrow of another species, such as the springhare, to its specific requirements. They are solitary creatures, and although they form mated pairs, the males and females are often found alone, as they tend to forage separately. They are not especially territorial but will mark their territories with a pungent scent. Although a normally silent fox, the Cape fox is known to communicate with soft calls, whines or chirps. However, it will utter a loud bark when alarmed. When in an aggressive mood, the Cape fox is known to growl and spit at its attacker. To show its excitement, the fox lifts its tail, the height of the tail often indicating the measure of excitement.

Food[edit]

Cape foxes are omnivorous and will eat plants or animals. Although they prefer invertebrates and small mammals such as rodents, they are opportunists and known to hunt and eat reptiles, rabbits, spiders, birds, and young hares. They will also eat eggs, beetle larvea, and carrion, as well as most insects or fruits. Cape foxes have been reported to be able to kill lambs up to three months of age, although this is a rare occurrence.

Reproduction[edit]

Typical of most Canid species, Cape foxes will mate for life. They are capable of breeding all year long, unlike the red fox, although they typically have offspring in the months from October to January. The female Cape fox has a gestation period of 51 to 53 days and gives birth to a litter of one to six cubs (or kits). Reared underground in burrows, the cubs will stay close to the den until they are about four months old. They are weaned at around six to eight weeks of age, but do not begin to forage until they are four months old. Cubs usually become independent at five months of age, at which point they will disperse (typically in June or July). They typically weigh from 50 to 100 grams (1.7 - 3.5 ounces) at birth. Both parents will care for the young, with the male also providing for the female during the first two weeks. A family group usually consists of the parents and their offspring, but different family groups sometimes mix during feeding. Multiple litters are possible and have been observed; however, the female usually chases out the cubs from the last litter when she is expecting another one. Cape foxes are fully grown within about a year, with both the female and the male reaching sexual maturity at 9 months. The Cape fox has a life expectancy of about six years, but can live for up to 10 years.

Conservation[edit]

The Cape fox is thought to help regulate populations of small mammals. Predators of the Cape fox include large raptors, such as eagles and owls, a well as caracal, leopard, hyena, and lion. They often succumb to diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, and in more recent times have started to become victims of traps set out for problem animals. A large number of Cape foxes are killed on the road by vehicles. Many are hunted and persecuted as vermin. Some may be mistaken for jackals and held responsible for livestock losses. About 2,500 individuals are killed yearly; this is about 16% of the total Cape fox population. Cape foxes are not regarded as a threatened species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Stuart, C. & Stuart, T. (2008). Vulpes chama. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 9 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
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