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The Bat Eared Fox

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Kenyan safari wildlife: The Bat-eared Fox

(Otocyon megalotis)with the name Otocyon which is derived from the Greek words “oto” for ear and “cyon” for dog is a canid of the African savanna, named for its large ears. The ears of bat-eared foxes can grow up to 5.3 inches long and have an average weight of about 2.2-4.5 kg.

The teeth of the Bat-eared Fox are much smaller than teeth of other canid species. This is an adaptation to its insectivorous diet, insects making up as much as 80% of its food intake.Bat-eared foxes use these specialized ears to locate termites, dung beetles, rodents, birds ,eggs and sometimes fruits and other insects, which make up most of their diet. Bat-eared foxes can hear larvae chewing their way out of an underground dung beetle ball. They can also detect the sound of harvesting termites chewing on short grasses. Surviving on an all-insect diet required several adaptations in the bat-eared fox. In addition to their large and powerful ears, bat-eared foxes have specialized extra teeth for chewing up insects, and their lower jawbone is designed to open and close rapidly.

The body of the bat-eared fox is ashy gray in color with black limbs and tail. The backs of its enormous ears are also black, and it has a raccoon-like white facemask. The underside of its neck and belly are paler than the rest of its body.

Bat-eared Foxes are mostly nocturnal animals that live in small groups consisting of mated pairs and their young. The pairs live in dens and typically raise two to five pups together. Mated pairs are very social and are monogamous, Bat-eared foxes mate for life, and sometimes two females will mate with one male and share a communal den. The father is very invested in the rearing of young, and he spends a great deal of time baby-sitting. While the father is watching the cubs, the mother is free to forage for food, including insects, which are a steady food source. Though they are low in nutrition and cannot be regurgitated for the young, they allow the mother to take in the necessary amount of food needed to produce milk for the cubs.

Bat-eared foxes are hunted by several different mammal species, including cheetahs, jackals, spotted hyenas, rock pythons, African wild dogs, and leopards. Their large, bushy tails work as a rudder when fleeing from predators in a zig-zag pattern. They are fast and good at dodging, but their best chance at escaping predation is by fleeing to their underground dens, which have several entrances and multiple chambers connected by tunnels. A bat-eared fox family may have several dens throughout their home range.

Bat-eared foxes are also preyed upon by raptors and must keep a watchful eye while foraging. Most of their foraging is done alone at night. While looking for food, these foxes walk slowly and quietly with their noses to the ground and their ears cocked forward, listening for insects.

Look for them when outdoor, usually in the morning hours during the early morning wildlife safari, they can be seen warming up in the morning sun, before getting into their dens when it gets hot.

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