Fennec Fox

Fennec Fox

Scientific Classification

Common Name
fennec fox
Genus Species
Vulpes (fox) zerda (Arabic for fennec, meaning small fox); former genus species: Fennecus (small fox) zerda

Fast Facts

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.
Head and body 35 to 40 cm (14 to 16 in.) long; tail 20 cm (8 in.); height at the shoulders 20 cm (8 in.)
1.36 to 1.6 kg (3 to 3.5 lbs.)
Mostly carnivorous; includes insects, snails, lizards, rodents, birds, eggs, and plant matter (fruits and berries)
Approximately 50 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 6 to 10 months
Life Span
Averages 10 to 12 years
This species is widespread in the sandy deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa, ranging from Western Sahara and Mauritania to northern Sinai.
Fennec fox subsists in arid desert environments and is capable of inhabiting the remotest sand seas. Stable sand dunes are believed to be ideal habitat.
Global: population appears to be stable and is not severely fragmented. They are common throughout the Sahara. The only documented regression concerns northern Moroccan Sahara, where the species disappeared during the 1960s from four localities, which were restricted sandy areas close to permanent human settlements.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Appendix II; legally protected in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Fennec foxes have extraordinary hearing to locate underground prey.
  2. Their large ears, which are usually 4 to 6 inches long, help to dissipate excess body heat on hot days.
  3. The fennec fox appears to be the only carnivore in the Sahara Desert able to live without freely available water. Their kidneys are specifically adapted to conserve water. They can obtain moisture from the food they eat and by licking the dew that forms in their dens.
  4. The fennec fox can have 2 litters per year if the first litter is lost and the food supply is plentiful. This is very unusual among the canids. Normally 2 to 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.

Ecology and Conservation

Fennec Fox populations appear to be at risk. They are not only suffering from habitat loss, but they are often hunted throughout the Sahara, making them rare in parts of Northwestern Africa.

Fennec Foxes do not pose any major threat to people or their livestock. In fact, they are important small predators that help to control rodents and locusts populations. The overpopulation of rodents poses a direct threat to the environment and agricultural crops. Consequently, small carnivores are extremely important to the balance of many ecosystems.

Locally, in North Africa, the main threat appears to be trapping for exhibition or sale to tourists. There may also be a higher risk of road kill in areas of human development


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.

Wacher, T., Bauman, K. & Cuzin, F. 2015. Vulpes zerda. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41588A46173447. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T41588A46173447.en/. Downloaded on 10 October 2018.