Fennec Fox

Fennec Fox

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: fennec fox
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Canidae
GENUS SPECIES: Vulpes (fox) zerda (Arabic for fennec, meaning small fox); former genus species: Fennecus (small fox) zerda

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: The fennec is the smallest of the foxes with enormous ears, a tiny face, and a pointed snout. The fennec fox is cream in color with a long (3/4 of the head and body length) black-tipped tail.
SIZE: Head and body 35-40 cm (14-16 in) long; tail 20 cm (8 in); height at the shoulders 20 cm (8 in)
WEIGHT: 1.36-1.6 kg (3-3.5 lbs.)
DIET: Mostly carnivorous; includes insects, snails, lizards, rodents, birds, eggs, and plant matter (fruits and berries)
GESTATION: Gestation lasts approximately about 50 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: Approximately 6-10 months
LIFE SPAN: Averages 10-12 years
RANGE: Northern Africa, throughout the Sahara Desert, East to the Sinai Peninsula and Arabia
HABITAT: Inhabits desert and semi-desert
POPULATION: GLOBAL Unknown
STATUS: IUCN Density Dependent
CITES Appendix II
USFWS Not listed

FUN FACTS

1. Fennec foxes have extraordinary hearing to locate prey that may be underground.
2. Their large ears, which are usually 4-6 inches long, help to dissipate excess body heat on hot days in the desert.
3. The fennec fox seems to be the only carnivore living in the Sahara Desert able to live well without free water. Their kidneys are adapted to restrict water loss, their extensive burrowing may cause the formation of dew, which can then be consumed, and they will receive moisture from the food that they eat. In addition, their burrowing and nocturnal lifestyle helps to restrict water loss. However, they will drink if water is available.
4. The fennec fox can have two litters per year if the first litter is lost and the food supply is plentiful. This is very unusual among the canids. Normally 2-5 young are born per litter.
5. Their thick fur helps to insulate them from the cold desert nights. Their sandy coloration helps to reflect heat, and also provides excellent camouflage. Fennec foxes also have thick fur on the soles of their feet, which insulate against the hot sand of the desert. This extra fur on the soles of their feet also afford them excellent traction in the loose sand.

During the day, they stay cool within the underground burrows they are so adept at creating. Thus their nocturnal behavior.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Unfortunately, as with most living species, fennec fox populations are at risk. They are not only suffering from loss of habitat, but they are also largely hunted by the people of the Sahara, making them become rare in parts of Northwestern Africa. However, they are of no threat to people and their livestock. In fact, fennec foxes are important small hunters helping to control the populations of several pests, including rodents and locusts. The over-population of rodents poses a direct threat to the environment and agricultural crops. Consequently, fennec foxes, and other small carnivores are extremely important to the balance of many ecosystems.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alden, P., Estes, R., Schlitter, D., McBride B. National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1995.

Macdonald, D. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1999.

Nowak, R. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Vol.2. Fifth Edition., 1991.