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The Fennec Fox
Have you ever heard of a Fennec Fox?
The Fennec Fox is a beautiful creature with some surprising qualities. Learn about its diet, behavior, habitat, and how it has adapted to life in the Sahara Desert. You will also see why conservation of the Fennec Fox and its habitat is so important.
Fennec Fox Photo Credit: National Geographic
The Fennec Fox, sometimes called the Desert Fox, is the smallest member of the fox family. It grows to about 1 1/2 feet high and weighs an average of 3 pounds. The Fennec Fox is dust colored, which helps it blend in with its natural habitat, the Sahara Desert. Probably the most recognizable feature of the Fennec Fox is its large ears, which grow to about 6 inches. The Fennec Fox also has thick fur on its feet to protect them from the hot desert sands.
Habitat of the Fennec Fox
The natural habitat of the Fennec Fox is the arid regions of North Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The Sahara Desert has the most concentrated populations of the Fennec Fox. The bottom of sandy mounds, hills, and dunes are favorite places for the fox to build their den because of moisture retention, and the sparse vegetation is used in the making of these dens. The Fennec Fox is exceptional at digging, and can burrow out a home for itself very quickly, which it shares with other pack members.
The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world, and one of the driest regions with the central part of the desert being the most arid . The Sahara is 3,600,000 square miles with some of the sand dunes rising as high as 590 feet, and harsh sand storms that whip through the region at high speeds. The driest regions of the Sahara averages less than an inch of rain per yer, which is why the Fennec Fox gets most of its water from vegetation.
The Fennec Fox is difficult to study in the wild because of these harsh conditions.
The Fennec Fox is an omnivore, meaning they eat both plants and animals. The diet of the Fennec Fox consists of desert creatures like insects, rodents, lizards and birds when available, plus their eggs. They eat the wild desert berries and grasses, which is where the Fennec Fox gets most of its water.
The Fennec Fox is also considered an exotic pet, and the diet of the Fennec Fox in captivity can be a bit challenging, since most people don't live in the desert. Some people have found that a mix of dog food, cat food, fruits and vegetables is an acceptable diet, with occasional fresh raw meat (not the rancid old package of beef left in the fridge too long). The best diet in captivity is the wild canid diet that zoos feed their wild creatures.
One of the amazing qualities of the Fennec Fox is it's ability to go for very long periods of time without drinking water. The kidneys of the Fennec Fox restrict water loss. The Fennec Fox also burrows in the ground, which helps retain water, and may also aid in building up moisture on the coat, which can be consumed. The fact that the Fennec Fox is nocturnal also help in protecting the creature from dehydration.
Another adaptation is the large ears of the Fennec Fox. The ears allow the Fennec Fox to hear very well. So well, that they can hear prey from a considerable distance. Not only can the Fennec Fox hear them moving in the sand above ground, but the prey can also be heard burrowing underground as well. The ears also aid in dissipating heat.
The sandy coat of the Fennec Fox not only helps in camouflage, but also reflects heat, helping the animal stay cool.
The furry soles of the Fennec Fox protect the fox from the burning sand and also aids in traction in the shifting sand.
The Fennec Fox usually gives birth to a litter of 2-5 young once a year, near the beginning of Spring, but twice is possible if the fox is healthy enough, and there is adequate food. Gestation is around 50 days, and the Fennec Fox is mature at about 10 months. The young Fennec Fox is greyish-white, gaining the usual desert coloration in the following weeks. They mature quickly, and only suckle for about a month. Grown male foxes are not allowed to enter the den until the young mature, but they do help the female protect the den.
Slightly understuffed body for incredible softness
Very detailed design to look adorably realistic
Quality fabric and ultra-plush stuffing
The Fennec Fox is extremely energetic. They have a lot of stamina, and like to play. The Fennec Fox is a burrowing animal, so they like to dig, they also bury their food. They are social animals, and can be found in packs. They are territorial, and males mark their territory. The Fennec Fox communicate with very high-pitched squeals, squeaks, and gurgles, they also wag their tails when happy or excited. The Fennec Fox will defend themselves when cornered or feel threatened, and are agile enough to escape if necessary. The Fennec Fox can also leap straight up a great distance in proportion to its body, which is used to escape if necessary, and they can dig so quickly that it almost seems that they disappear in the sand, escaping in this way also.
The Importance of Conservation
The Fennec Fox is approaching endangerment mainly because it is hunted for its fur. The Fennec Fox is a very important part of the Saharan ecosystem because it keeps the insect and rodent population in check. The Fennec Fox poses absolutely no threat to humans or livestock. Many animals have already been hunted to extinction, so the possibly is not remote. If the Fennec Fox population is decimated, the locust and rodent population would explode, damaging the livelihood of the Saharan people and those in surrounding areas. Disease from rodents could cause another epidemic. The Fennec Fox must be preserved to keep the delicate balance of the ecosystem intact.
The Fennec Fox is officially protected in Morocco, and select places in Egypt and Niger. According to ARKIVE, the fox is listed as 'least concern' because there is not enough information to determine its risk of extinction. More studies of the population in the wild need to be done.
A fascinating look at the Fennec Fox, with many beautiful pictures and detailed information, but written so that it could be understood by school-aged children.