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. 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.
– Numerous stiff hairs are found growing between the pads of the toes and are probably an adaption of moving through soft sand.
– Adult caracals are usually solitary, but are sometimes seen cooperating in pairs.
– They produce a wide range of sounds — including growling, barking, hissing, purring, and ‘calling’.
– “Their home ranges are large in arid areas. Three males averaged 122.2 sq miles on Namibian ranchland. In northern Saudi Arabia, a radio-tracked male ranged over 100 to 431 sq miles in different seasons. In an agricultural area in Israel’s Negev Desert male home ranges averaged 85.2 sq miles. Home range size was positively correlated with body weight, and negatively correlated with prey availability. Male home ranges overlapped substantially (50%), and typically included those of several females. Two dispersals were observed: a male migrated 37 to 56 miles south before establishing a home range, whereas a female remained in the vicinity of her natal range, with her range partly overlapping that of her mother.”
– They can survive for long periods of time without drinking water — getting by entirely on the water found in the body of their prey.
– Caracals seem to have been of some religious significance to ancient Egyptians — the cats are often seen depicted in the wall paintings and sculptures of the period, as well as there being many embalmed bodies of the species still around.