Fennec fox

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Fennec fox
FennecFox.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Mammalia
Sub-class Theriiformes
Infra-class Holotheria
Order Information
Superorder Preptotheria
Order Carnivora
Sub-order Caniformia
Infraorder Cynoidea
Family Information
Family Canidae
Sub-family Caninae
Tribe Information
Tribe Vulpini
Genus Information
Genus Vulpes
Species Information
Species V. zerda
Population statistics
Population Unknown (2015 est.)
Conservation status Least concern[1]

The fennec fox (Vulpes zerda) is a small fox found in the Sahara Desert in North Africa, and best noted for its distinctive oversized ears. Its name is derived from an Arabic word for "fox".

Description

The fennec fox is the smallest canine species, with a body length of 9 to 16 inches (excluding the 8-inch tail), a shoulder height of 8 inches, and a body weight of 1.5 to 3.5 pounds. The ears - larger in proportion to its body than any other canine - are 3.9 to 5.9 inches long, and make up 20% of the body surface. Snout and legs are slim and petite.

The coat is very dense and long, sandy brown in color with a beige, reddish or gray tint. The underside is a lighter color than the top. The ears have a dark back, with the edges and inside whitened. The eyes are relatively large and dark; from the inner angle, a dark line runs down to the muzzle. The thighs are reddish in individuals from the northern part of the range, while in animals from the south, they have a whitish color. The hairiness of the toes extends beyond the soles and thus forms an insulating pad for the feet. The tail is densely hairy, with a dark-colored tip. Fennecs, like all foxes, have a change in coat from summer to winter, with the summer coat a little shorter and lighter than the winter coat. Young animals show a similar coat pattern as adults, but are lighter and have little to no red in the fur.

Range and habitat

The fennec fox is found in the Sahara desert, covering nearly the entire expanse, and is limited by temperate or humid climates. To the north it is limited by the expanse of the Atlas mountains, and it almost reaches the Mediteranean coastline to the east. In Egypt, it is roughly bounded by the Nile river, but extends in the north to the northwestern Sinai Peninsula. In Sudan, it is found further east than in Egypt, but not as far east as the Red Sea coastline. In Mauritania and Morocco, the Fennek comes close to the Atlantic coast. The southern boundary of the range marks the northern Sahel, where the Fennek occurs about 14° N. Within the desert, it is found primarily in what has been nicknamed the "sand sea", that large portion of the Sahara crossed by undulating sand dunes and devoid of vegetation[2]. Other areas include very sparse vegetation, either trees or shrubs.

Diet

Fennecs are omnivores. Wild fennecs will hunt rodents, insects, lizards, birds, and bird eggs for food. Being a desert animal, the fennec gets most of its water from food, but will sometimes eat plants as an additional source of water. Although they can last long periods of time without water they will drink water when available.

Tame fennecs will eat vegetables and most meats but cooked eggs are a good source of food. As with dogs, they will eat many leftovers from a meal.

Threats

The fennec fox is listed as "least concern" by the ICUN, due to the large range. Despite an unknown population estimate, it is believed to be very common in numbers, a belief based upon a large number of foxes trapped in north African countries for sale in the pet trade, as well as being commonly seen by oil prospectors, geologists, and other workers in the southern Sahara[3]. Road kills and the spreading of human urbanization have also been cited as threats; it may be regionally extinct in southern Morocco as a result of expanding settlements[4].

Domestication

The fennec is the only species of fox which can properly be kept as a pet. Although not completely domesticated, they can be kept in a domestic setting similar to dogs or cats. Pet fennecs being social animals, they are usually very friendly towards strangers and other household pets. The legality of owning a fennec varies with jurisdiction, so local animal control authorities or councils must be consulted before considering purchase. Because they are exotic pets, not all veterinarians will treat fennecs, so a local vet prepared to vaccinate and treat them is a must.

References

  1. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41588/46173447
  2. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41588/46173447#habitat-ecology
  3. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41588/46173447#population
  4. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41588/46173447#threats