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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The small fennec fox is perfectly adapted to life in the harsh deserts of Africa, where daytime temperatures are record breaking, and freezing temperatures at night are not uncommon. The soles of the feet are covered by long, soft hairs that protect the feet from extreme temperatures, and help the fox walk on loose sand (2). Their large ears act like radiators and dissipate heat (5), as well as providing excellent hearing with which to detect prey (2). The fennec fox can subsist without water for an indefinite period, and survives by obtaining moisture through their food, and conserving water by remaining in burrows during the hot days and venturing out only at night. The thick, woolly fur helps insulate the fox against the cold, desert nights (2). The fennec fox starts to tremble with cold when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius, but incredibly, they only start to pant when temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius. When they do pant, their breathing rate rockets from 23 breaths per minute up to an astonishing 690 breaths per minute (4). Fennec foxes are monogamous, and the pair lives with their offspring in a family unit of up to ten individuals (2). Fennec foxes mate in January and February and females give birth in March and April (5). Usually a litter of two to five cubs are born every year, after a gestation period of around 50 days. The male provides food and defends the burrow (which can be up to ten meters in length) until the cubs are four weeks old. They are weaned at 61 to 70 days and reach adult size and sexual maturity after only 9 to 11 months (2). In captivity, the fennec fox has been known to live for almost 13 years (2). Fennec foxes feed primarily on grasshoppers and locusts, but also eat other insects, rodents, birds, lizards and roots. They hunt alone and locate prey primarily by sound, killing their target with a bite to the neck (2).
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Description

Weighing around only one kilogram, the fennec is the smallest of all foxes (4). It is easily recognised by its massive ears, which are about ten centimetres in length, its large, black eyes and small muzzle (2). The fur of the fennec fox is long, soft and sandy coloured, providing excellent camouflage in their desert habitat (2). The face is lighter with a dark streak that extends from the inner eye down and outward to either side of the muzzle (5). The thick, bushy tail is a little more reddish, with a black tip and a black patch near the base (2). The slender legs of the fennec fox in North Africa are reddish sand, whereas foxes from further south have almost white legs (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Widespread in the sandy deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa to northern Sinai (Saleh and Basuony 1998). References to Fennec sightings in the United Arab Emirates were based on an animal in the Al Ain zoo (Al-Robbae 1982), which was, in fact, a Rüppell's Fox (Gasperetti et al. 1985). Thesiger (1949) reported Fennec tracks in the region of Abu Dhabi, but there are no confirmed records of the species in the Arabian Peninsula.
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Distribution in Egypt

Narrow (Western Desert and North Sinai).

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Geographic Range

The largest populations of Vulpes zerda occur in the central Sahara, though the species can be found in mountainous and desert regions from northern Morocco (roughly 35 degrees N latitude), east along the northern tip of the Red Sea to Kuwait, and south into northern Nigeria and Chad (15 degrees N latitude).

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )

  • Smith, S. 1985. The Atlas of Africa's Principal Mammals. Republic of South Africa: Natural History Books.
  • Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  • 2004. "Fennec fox" (On-line). BBC Nature Facts. Accessed February 04, 2004 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/146.shtml.
  • Zimen, E. 1990. Fennec. Pp. 131-132 in B Grzimek, ed. Fennec, Vol. 4, Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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Range

Occurs in northern Africa to northern Sinai; in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia (5).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Fennecs are the smallest of the canids. They range in size from 0.8 kg in vixens to 1.5 kg in males. They are smaller than an average house cat. Tail length is between 18 and 30 cm, and accounts for nearly 60 percent of the 30 to 40 cm body length. Standing 18 to 22 cm at the shoulder, fennecs are significantly shorter than other African foxes, which average a shoulder height of 30 cm. Not enough is known about fennecs to state conclusively whether they are sexually dimorphic. The family Canidae, however, exhibits the limited sexual dimorphism common in groups of mostly monogamous species. Since V. zerda is monogamous, it is reasonable to assume this species follows the pattern of slight sexual dimorphism.

The ears of fennecs are perhaps their most distinctive feature. Massive in proportion to the skull, the large, 15 cm long pinnae are used both to dissipate heat and to locate prey moving under the sand. Enlarged auditory bullae also serve this latter purpose. Fur in adults is thick and silky, buff-colored on the dorsal surface and white along the animal’s legs, face, ear-linings and underside. In contrast, juveniles are downy and almost exclusively white. The fur over the violet gland - found in all foxes, and of unknown function - is black or dark brown. This is also the color of the fur on the tip of the tail. The feet are heavily furred, protecting the pads from the hot desert sand. The eyes, rhinal pad, and vibrissae of fennecs are all black. Dentition is weak, similar to that in bat-eared foxes.

Range mass: 0.8 to 1.5 kg.

Average mass: 1.5 kg.

Range length: 30 to 40 cm.

Average length: 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Average basal metabolic rate: 2.693 W.

  • Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
  • 2004. "Fennec Fox" (On-line). The Chaffee Zoo. Accessed February 04, 2004 at http://www.chaffeezoo.org/animals/fennec.htm.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Fennecs subsist in arid desert environments, preferring this substrate for burrowing. Stable sand dunes are believed to be ideal habitat (Dorst and Dandelot 1969; Coetzee 1977), although they also live in very sparsely vegetated sand dunes near the Atlantic coast (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.). Annual rainfall is less than 100 mm per year on the northern fringe of the fennec's distribution. On the southern fringe, it may be found up to the Sahelian areas that receive as much as 300 mm rainfall per year. In the Sahara, sparse vegetation is usually dominated by Aristida spp., and Ephedra alata in large sand dunes. In small sand dunes, it is dominated by Panicum turgidum, Zygophyllum spp., and sometimes by trees like Acacia spp. and Capparis deciduas (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Fennecs are highly specialized to desert life and found almost exclusively in arid, sandy regions. The presence of desert grasses and/or light scrub vegetation is important, as fennecs use these plants to bolster, shelter, and line their dens. Fennecs are so well adapted to their Saharan climate that they need not drink. In times of need, however, nearby vegetation is a handy source of water and may be eaten.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune

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The fennec fox inhabits sandy deserts and semi-deserts, preferring stable sand dunes, in which it can burrow (2) (5).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Fennecs have small carnassial teeth. They obtain much of their food through digging, and, as omnivores in a desert environment, will consume almost anything that makes itself available. Small rodents, lizards, birds, eggs, and insects are all common prey. Fruit, leaves and roots are an important part of the diet of V. zerda, as they provide almost 100 percent of the animal’s hydration. Fennecs can go indefinitely without free water, and are known to cache extra food.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Fennecs are predators, reducing the number of small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and other terrestrial invertebrates found within their home territories. They may strip the leaves off scrub vegetation, but there is no evidence that this behavior causes permanent damage to the plants.

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Predation

Little is known about what animals prey on fennecs, though it seems safe to assume that some do. Fennec dens are designed for quick escape, and the sand-colored fur which aids stalking of prey may also help them evade detection by larger, fiercer animals. Excellent hearing surely allows V. zerda to locate and avoid predators.

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Vulpes zerda perceives its environment primarily through highly developed senses of hearing and smell. The enormous ears are able to filter sound through many centimeters of sand, and can detect subtle differences between whines and whimpers in the calls of other fennecs. Night vision is enhanced by a reflective retina called a tapetum. This adaptation creates the illusion of glowing eyes and is characteristic of nocturnal animals.

Social rank among fennecs is communicated mainly through play. As social animals, they use visual and tactile communication.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Fennecs can live for up to 10 years in the wild, a common lifespan among African foxes. Captive fennecs may survive for up to 12 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 16.3 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Little is known about how fennecs attract or defend their mates, though reproductive opportunity may be affected by social position. It is possible that only dominant males pair with females. The breeding season runs from January to February, but vixens remain in estrus for only a few days. Fennecs mate for life. This monogamous pairing leads to a social structure in which each breeding couple (or family- fennec parents often enlist the aid of older siblings in caring for offspring) have their own territory. This territory is bounded by urine and piles of fecal matter. Fennecs are vigorous defenders of both territory and pups.

Mating System: monogamous ; cooperative breeder

The breeding season of V. zerda begins in mid winter (January to February), and pups are born after a gestation period of 50 to 53 days. 50 days is the average gestation. Fennecs have a slow reproductive rate, and vixens give birth only once yearly. Their litters are relatively small, usually containing only 2 to 4 altricial pups (although 5 and even 6 are not entirely uncommon). At birth, the blind and helpless offspring weigh 50 g. Their mother attends them in the den for the first 2 weeks, until their eyes open. At 4 weeks the pups begin to play within the den. At 5 weeks play extends to the area just outside the den entrance. The pups of V. zerda suckle longer than those of most foxes, and weaning may not occur until nearly 3 months of age. Young may be licked, carried, and closely watched for up to 70 days. Sexual maturity comes with the attainment of adult size at 6 to 9 months of age.

Breeding interval: Fennecs breed once yearly

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in January and February.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Range gestation period: 50 to 53 days.

Average gestation period: 50 days.

Range weaning age: 30 to 90 days.

Range time to independence: 6 to 9 months.

Average time to independence: 6 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 9 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 9 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 26.28 g.

Average number of offspring: 2.2.

The low birth rate and slow reproductive recovery of declining fennec populations means that fennec parents have a high reproductive investment in their altricial pups. Vixens give continuous care for the two weeks following birth. Father and mother work together during the prolonged rearing of the young. Males bring food to the family and watch for dangers to playing pups. Fennecs are very aggressive in the defense of their young, and added protection for the pups may be a reason to maintain community structure. Though weaned at as early as one month, fennec offspring require care and supervison for a much longer period. Full independence is not attained until roughly 6 months of age.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Hairy footpads aid walking on loose sand: Fennec Fox
 

Hairy pads or bristles on the feet of desert creatures help them move on loose sand by providing a braking mechanism as the feet push backwards.

   
  "Soles equipped with bristles or hairy pads are also suitable for locomotion over loose sand. Many desert and steppe dwellers walk on such soft and comfortable soles; notable examples are the tarsiers, Tenebrionidae and Asilidae, the Eligmodontia mouse, the sand cat, and the fennec fox." (Tributsch 1984:73)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Tributsch, H. 1984. How life learned to live. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 218 p.
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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
2008

Assessor/s
Asa, C.S., Valdespino, C., Cuzin, F., de Smet, K. & Jdeidi, T.

Reviewer/s
Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as, although there is no detailed information on its abundance, the species is relatively widespread in the sandy deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa to northern Sinai. At present, there are no known major range-wide threats believed to be resulting in a population decline that would warrant listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 2004
    Data Deficient
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN 1990)
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Fennecs once ranged broadly over northern Africa, but sport hunting and intrusion by humans are shrinking their habitat and increasing their scarcity. The IUCN Red List cites fennecs as Data deficient. CITES places fennecs in Appendix II in Austria, and Appendix III in Denmark and Tunisia.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii; appendix iii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status in Egypt

Native, resident.

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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) by the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
They are common throughout the Sahara (Harrison and Bates 1991) and may occur to north Sahelian areas in the south to 14ºN (Dragesco-Joffé 1993; Granjon et al. 1995). The only documented regression concerns northern Moroccan Sahara, where the fennec disappeared during the 1960s from four localities, which were restricted sandy areas close to permanent human settlements (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).

Current statistics are not available, but the population is assumed to be adequate based on the observations that the fennec is still commonly trapped and sold commercially in northern Africa. In southern Morocco, fennecs were commonly seen in all sandy areas away from permanent human settlements (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
The primary threat appears to be trapping for commercial use. In sandy areas commonly visited by tourists, the Fennec is well known, but because it is otherwise difficult to see, it is trapped for exhibition or sale to tourists (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.). Though restricted to marginal areas, new permanent human settlements such as those in southern Morocco have resulted in the disappearance of fennecs in these areas (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).
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Dogs and humans are thought to pose the greatest threat to the fennec fox (2). In northern Africa the fennec fox is hunted and trapped, and sold commercially. They are captured for the pet trade, sold to locals to be raised for meat, or killed for their fur which is used by the indigenous people of northern Africa (5). They are also killed by domestic dogs (2). These threats have resulted in a decline in numbers in certain populations in north-western Africa (2), and new permanent human settlements, such as those in southern Morocco, have resulted in the disappearance of fennec foxes from those areas (4).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Listed in CITES – Appendix II. Occurs in protected areas in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia.

Legally protected in Morocco (including Western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Historically, the North American Regional Studbook (Bauman 2002) lists some 839 individuals that have been held in the North American region between 1900 and 2001. At the end of 2001, there were 131 individuals in 51 institutions. The Australian Regional Studbook lists 81 historically, with only 12 in the captive population at present. Although fennecs occur in European zoos, there is no studbook or management plan. Fennecs are also kept as pets and bred privately, but these records are not available.

Gaps in knowledge
While studies of captive animals have gone some way towards improving our knowledge of this little-known species (particularly as regards reproduction), much remains unknown of their basic ecology and behaviour in the wild. Work on captive populations is encouraged, but an in-depth study of the species, with particular emphasis on habitat use and population dynamics in the wild is overdue. Field studies underway in Tunisia are starting to redress this situation but undoubtedly more work is needed.
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Conservation

The fennec fox is listed on Appendix II of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in this species should be carefully regulated (3). Its conservation status has not yet been assessed as it was deemed that there was too little information to determine its risk of extinction (1). The fennec fox is legally protected in Morocco (5), and occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, such as Bir El Abd Conservation Area in Egypt, and Aïr and Tenere National Reserve in Niger (5). Fennec foxes have been bred in captivity, which has increased knowledge of this species, and yet much remains unknown of their behaviour and ecology in the wild. Further studies on wild populations are needed to enable the conservation status of the fennec fox to be assessed (1) (5).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Fennecs do not have any known negative impact on humans, and why native peoples of the Sahara are hunting them into decline remains unclear.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Fennecs are distributed to zoos and as personal pets.

Positive Impacts: pet trade

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Wikipedia

Fennec fox

The fennec fox or fennec (Vulpes zerda) is a small nocturnal fox found in the Sahara of North Africa. Its most distinctive feature is its unusually large ears, which serve to dissipate heat. Its name comes from the Arabic word فنك (fanak), which means fox, and the species name zerda comes from the Greek word xeros which means dry, referring to the fox's habitat.[2] The fennec is the smallest species of canid in the world. Its coat, ears, and kidney functions have adapted to high-temperature, low-water, desert environments. In addition, its hearing is sensitive enough to hear prey moving underground. It mainly eats insects, small mammals, and birds.

The fennec has a life span of up to 14 years in captivity. Its main predators are the African varieties of eagle owl. Families of fennecs dig out dens in sand for habitation and protection, which can be as large as 120 m2 (1,292 sq ft) and adjoin the dens of other families. Precise population figures are not known but are estimated from the frequency of sightings; these indicate that the animal is currently not threatened by extinction. Knowledge of social interactions is limited to information gathered from captive animals. The species is usually assigned to the genus Vulpes; however, this is debated due to differences between the fennec fox and other fox species. The fennec's fur is prized by the indigenous peoples of North Africa, and in some parts of the world, the animal is considered an exotic pet.

Description[edit]


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Fennec fox skull

The fennec fox weighs about 1.5–3.5 lb (0.68–1.59 kg), with a body length of between 24–41 cm (9–16 in); it is around 20.3 cm (8 in) tall.[3] It is the smallest species of canid in the world.[4] The tail has a black tip and is 18–31 cm (7–12 in) long, while the ears can be between 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) long.[5][6][7]

The coat is often a cream color and fluffy, which deflects heat during the day and keeps the fox warm at night.[3] The fennec's characteristic ears are the largest among all foxes relative to body size,[3] and serve to dissipate heat, as they have many blood vessels close to the skin.[8] The ears of a fennec are sensitive enough to hear prey that may be underground;[5] the soles of its feet are protected from the hot desert sand by thick fur.[3]

Taxonomy[edit]

In captivity

The species was previously classified in the genus Fennecus, but has since been reclassified to the genus Vulpes which includes a variety of other types of foxes.[2] Scientists have noted that while there are similarities, there are many differences that set the fennec fox apart from other fox species, including both physical and social traits.[9] This has led to two conflicting classifications: Vulpes zerda, implying that the fennec fox is a true fox, and Fennecus zerda, implying that the fennec fox belongs to its own genus.[10]

Physically, the fennec lacks the musk glands of other fox species,[9] and has only 32 chromosome pairs, while other fox species have between 35 and 39.[11] The species also displays behaviors uncharacteristic of foxes, such as living in packs while most other fox species are solitary.[9]









Arctic fox



Kit fox





Corsac fox




Rüppell's fox



Red fox






Cape fox





Blanford's fox



Fennec fox[12](Fig. 10)





Raccoon dog





Bat-eared fox





Behavior[edit]

Social behavior[edit]

"A greyscale sketch of a group of long eared foxes on a rocky outcrop in a desert. There is a crumbling brick building to the left and two of the foxes are on lookout."
An 1876 sketch of a pack of fennec foxes

Information on fennec fox social behavior is mainly based on captive animals. The basic social unit is thought to be a mated pair and their offspring, and the young of the previous year are believed to remain in the family even after a new litter is born. Playing behavior is common, including among adults of the species.[13] Fennec foxes make a variety of sounds, including barking, a purring sound similar to that of a domestic cat, and a snarl if threatened.[14]

Captive animals engage in highly social behavior, typically resting while in contact with each other. Males tend to show more aggression and urine-marking around the time of the females' estrous cycle. They have been seen to bury feces by pushing soil with their noses or hind feet when in captivity. Much remains unknown of their basic ecology and behavior in the wild, and a 2004 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that "in-depth study of the species, with particular emphasis on habitat use and population dynamics in the wild, is overdue."[13]

Diet and hunting[edit]

The fennec fox is an omnivore. Food sources include plants, rodents, insects, birds, eggs,[5] and rabbits.[15][16] An individual can jump up to 2 ft (61 cm) high and 4 ft (120 cm) forward, which helps it catch prey and escape predators.[3] When hunting, large eared foxes such as the fennec, or the bat-eared fox, can seem to stare at the ground while they rotate their heads from side to side to pinpoint the location of prey, either underground or hidden above ground.[8] There are reports that fennec foxes climb date palms while foraging for fruit; however, some experts consider these reports unlikely unless low branches are available for support.[17]

The species is able to live without free water, as its kidneys are adapted to restrict water loss. A fennec's burrowing can cause the formation of dew. They are also known to absorb water through food consumption; but will drink water if available.[5]

Reproduction[edit]

See caption.
Close up of the head of a fennec fox

Fennec foxes are social animals that mate for life, with each pair or family controlling their own territory.[18] Sexual maturity is reached at around nine months old. In the wild, mating usually occurs between January and February for litters to be born between March and April. However, in captivity most litters are born later, between March and July, although births can occur year round.[13] The species usually breeds only once each year.[19] The copulation tie has been recorded as lasting up to two hours and 45 minutes. Following mating, the male becomes very aggressive and protective of the female, providing her with food during her pregnancy and lactation periods.[13]

Gestation is usually between 50 to 52 days, although there have been 62 and 63 day gestation periods reported from foxes in captivity. The typical litter is between one and four kits, with weaning taking place at around 61 to 70 days.[13] When born, the kit's ears are folded over and its eyes are closed, with the eyes opening at around ten days and the ears lifting soon afterward.[19] The life span of a fennec fox has been recorded as up to 14 years in captivity.[13]

Habitat[edit]

"A light brown fox is held in one hand of a person. It's large ears are sticking out horizontally.
A ten-month-old fennec fox

The species is found in North Africa and Asia. The range is from Morocco through to Egypt, as far south as northern Niger and as far east as the Sinai Peninsula and Kuwait.[20]

A fennec fox's typical den is dug in sand, either in open areas or places sheltered by plants with stable sand dunes considered to be their ideal habitat. In compacted soils, dens can be up to 120 square meters, with up to 15 different entrances. In some cases different families interconnect their dens, or locate them close together. In soft, looser sand, dens tend to be simpler with only one entrance leading to a single chamber.[13]

Population[edit]

The fennec fox is classified as "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List,[1] and as a CITES Appendix II species: species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but whose trade must be controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.[21][22] It is often hunted by humans, though it does not cause any direct harm to human interests, such as livestock.[5] Like other foxes, it is prized for its fur by the indigenous people of the Sahara and Sinai.[23]

Current statistics on population are not known, but the population is assumed to be adequate based on observations of traders commonly trapping fennec foxes in Northern Africa for exhibition or sale to tourists. In southern Morocco, the fennec fox is commonly seen in sandy areas away from permanent human settlements.[10]

Predators[edit]

The fennec fox's main predators are the various African varieties of eagle owl.[19] Other possible predators include caracals, jackals, striped hyenas, and the saluki, a greyhound-like domestic dog local to the area. However, fennec foxes are considered very difficult to capture, and reports of predators other than the eagle owl are considered to be anecdotal and questionable.[13][19][24]

Fennec foxes are commonly trapped for sale to the pet trade and for fur by the human population of Northern Africa. In southern Morocco in particular, their meat is not eaten because it is considered to be foul smelling.[13]

As pets[edit]

See caption.
A pet fennec scratching an ear with a hind foot.

The fennec fox is bred commercially as an exotic house pet.[6] Breeders tend to remove the young kits from the mother to hand-rear, as owners prefer tamer and more handleable foxes, thereby making them more expensive.[19]

The species is classified a "Small wild/exotic canid" by the United States Department of Agriculture, along with the coyote, dingo, jackal, and arctic fox,[25] and is considered the only species of fox, other than the domesticated silver fox, which can properly be kept as a pet. Although it cannot be considered domesticated, it can be kept in a domestic setting similar to dogs or cats.[26] A breeders' registry has been set up in the USA to avoid any problems associated with inbreeding.[19] The legality of owning a fennec fox varies by jurisdiction, as with many exotic pets.[27][28]

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French aviator and writer, made a reference in a letter written to his sister Didi from Cape Juby in 1918 to his raising a fennec that he adored. Saint-Exupéry also mentioned encountering a fennec when wandering in the Sahara after his plane crashed there in 1935. The fennecs he had known in these two contexts are considered to have inspired the fox character in Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.[citation needed]

A fennec called Baha, is also mentioned as a pet in a popular children's book Mischief in Fez by Eleanor Hoffman, published in 1943. In this story, the fennec is depicted according to the Arabic and Moorish tradition, whereby as a pet it is able to keep away djinns and other such demonic creatures, from a house.

Algerian national emblem[edit]

The fennec fox is the national animal of Algeria.[29] It also serves as the nickname for the Algeria national football team: "Les Fennecs".[30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Asa CS, Valdespino C, Cuzin F, de Smet K & Jdeidi T (2008). "Vulpes zerda". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "FENNEC FOX (Fennecus zerda a.k.a. Vulpes zerda)". The Animals at Wildworks. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Nobleman, Marc Tyler (2007). Foxes. Benchmark Books (NY). pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-7614-2237-2. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Small Mammals: Fennec Fox". Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Fennec Fox". Seaworld.org. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Roots, Clive (2006). Nocturnal Animals. Greenwood Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0-313-33546-4. 
  7. ^ Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
  8. ^ a b Rogers, Leslie J. (2003). Spirit of the Wild Dog: The World of Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, Jackals and Dingoes. Allen & Unwin. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-1-86508-673-6. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c Waltz, Donna Maria (7 February 2008). "The Desert Fox". Waltz.net. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  10. ^ a b "Vulpes zerda". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Archived from the original on 20 October 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  11. ^ Wrenin, Eddie (24 June 2009). "Gotta catch them all! The Pokémon cubs receive their first public showing at Tokyo Zoo". Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  12. ^ Lindblad-Toh, K.; Wade, CM; Mikkelsen, TS; Karlsson, EK; Jaffe, DB; Kamal, M; Clamp, M; Chang, JL et al. (2005). "Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog". Nature 438 (7069): 803–819. doi:10.1038/nature04338. PMID 16341006. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sillero-Zubiri, Claudio; Hoffman, Michael; Mech, Dave (2004). Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. World Conservation Union. pp. 208–209. ISBN 978-2-8317-0786-0. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  14. ^ Alderton, p. 146.
  15. ^ Fennec fox. canids.org
  16. ^ Alderton, p. 144.
  17. ^ Alderton, pp. 144–5.
  18. ^ "Fennec fox". BBC Science and Nature. July 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Roots, Clive (2007). Domestication. Greenwood. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-0-313-33987-5. Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  20. ^ "Fennec Fox". Wildlife at Animal Corner. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  21. ^ "Fennec Fox". CITES Species Gallery. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  22. ^ "How CITES works". Discover CITES. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  23. ^ "Fennec Fox Fennecus Zelda". African Bushmeat Expedition. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  24. ^ "Fennec Fox". Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Rosamond Gifford Zoo. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  25. ^ "Animal Inventory Sheet". United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  26. ^ "Fennec Foxes – Introduction". Fennec-Fox.com. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  27. ^ "The Fennec Fox Page". Petit Paws Exotics. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  28. ^ "Fennec Fox State Laws". CritterHouse.com. Archived from the original on 15 December 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  29. ^ Hodges, Kate. "National Animals of African Countries". Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  30. ^ "Paris salutes Les Fennecs". Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. 

Bibliography[edit]

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