The fennec fox or fennec (Vulpes zerda) is a mammal of the order Carnivora.
It is found in the Sahara of North Africa, the Sinai Peninsula, South West Israel (Arava desert) and the Arabian desert.
Fennecs are highly specialized to desert life and found almost exclusively in arid, sandy regions. The presence of desert grasses and/or light scrub vegetation is important, as fennecs use these plants to bolster, shelter, and line their dens. Fennecs are so well adapted to their Saharan climate that they need not drink. In times of need, however, nearby vegetation is a handy source of water and may be eaten.
The lifespan of fennec fox is up to 10 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity.
The fennec fox is the smallest species of fox and the smallest species of canid in the world. They are smaller than an average house cat.
It weighs about 0.7–1.6 kg (1.5–3.5 lb), with a body length of between 24–41 cm (9–16 in); it is around 20.3 cm (8 in) tall. The tail has a black tip and is 18–31 cm (7–12 in) long, while the ears can be between 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) long.
The fennec fox is easily recognised by its massive ears and its large, black eyes and small muzzle.
The fur of the fennec fox is long, soft and sandy colored, providing excellent camouflage in their desert habitat. They have fur on their feet that protects their footpads from the scorching ground.
The fennec fox are highly social animals, living together in family groups which may contain up to 10 individuals. These kin-based clans usually include at least one breeding pair, a litter of immature pups, and perhaps a few of the pups’ older siblings.
These foxes have a variety of calls including soft warning calls, barks, yaps, squeaks and purrs.
The fennec fox is nocturnal, meaning it rests during the day and is awake during the night.
It spends the heat of the day underground in its burrow. The burrows are extensive, up to 10 meters (33 feet) long and 3.5 feet deep. They burrow at the base of low hills or dunes where moisture concentrates, keeping their dens cool even in the hottest weather.
The fennec fox perceives its environment primarily through highly developed senses of hearing and smell. Its hearing is sensitive enough to hear prey moving underground.
While their legs may not be long, fennec foxes can run 32 kilometers (20 miles) per hour.
An individual can jump up to 60 cm (2 ft) high and 120 cm (4 ft) forward, which helps it catch prey and escape predators.
Fennec foxes mate for life.
Mating occurs in January and February. Gestation averages 50 days. The young are born blind and helpless in late winter and early spring, in a den at the foot of a sand dune. A litter usually consists of 2-5 cubs. The cubs are weaned at 61-70 days and may eat solid food at 25 days.
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.
The fennec fox is one of the only carnivores that seems to do well in the Sahara desert because of its ability to survive with very little water.
Its name comes from the Berber word (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 fox is currently listed as a species of least concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The fennec fox is the national animal of Algeria. It also serves as the nickname for the Algeria national football team: “Les Fennecs”.
Fennec is the code name for Mozilla’s Firefox for mobile project.
A fennec fox named Finnick was depicted in Disney’s Zootopia. As a result of the popularity of the movie, the Los Angeles Times reported that Chinese children are begging their parents to procure the animals as pets.