LONGLEAT keepers are hoping love is in the ear for a pair of the world’s smallest foxes. These super-cute Fennec foxes, Anthony and Zuri, are part of an international breeding programme for the diminutive canines at the safari park.
Reaching a maximum length of under 40 cms and weighing less than two kilogrammes, the fennec fox is by far the smallest member of the fox family and significantly more petite than a family cat. But what they lack in body size they more than make up for with their huge ears, which are up to 25 per cent of their entire body length.
The pair were introduced to each other late last year and now staff are cautiously optimistic they’re a perfect match.
“Anthony originally arrived from a collection in Poland as a youngster and we have been trying to source a suitable partner for him for some time,” said keeper, Chloe Finch.
“That’s why we were so excited when we heard about Zuri, a two-year-old female who was born at Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. She arrived before Christmas and has spent the past few months settling in, now we’re hoping their relationship will move on to the next level,” she added.
Fennec foxes are believed to mate for life. Couples tend to produce a single litter of up to five pups each year with the youngsters remaining reliant on their parents until they are nine months old.
Found in Northern Africa, throughout the Sahara desert, east to the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia they live in semi-arid desert environments with sparse vegetation, utilising the sand for burrowing and creating their dens.
Their large ears enable them both to hear their prey and to dissipate excess body heat. Other adaptations to their hot and arid environment include furry paws, which act as an insulator against scorching sand and the fact they do not need to drink water; receiving all their liquid from their mixed diet of plants, fruit and insects.
At Longleat their enclosure features underfloor heating to mimic conditions in the wild.