The bat eared fox is a type of fox that lives in the African savannah. Scientifically known as Otocyon Megalotis, the animal first appeared some 800,000 years ago and has not changed since then because the ones you see today closely resemble their earlier ancestors. Otocyon Megalotis is also referred to as the Sub-Saharan African version of the large-eared fennec fox. Other names include Delalande's fox, black-eared fox, and big-eared fox.
The bat eared fox has brownish fur with ears, legs, and areas of the pointed face that are black. Its head and body length is about 55 centimetres, while the ears are 13 centimetres long. They weigh between 3-5 kilograms and live in self-dug dens that protect them from extreme winds and temperatures.
Bat eared fox facts
The Otocyon Megalotis is rather popular in the wild, and most people on safaris can see it. Here are some interesting facts about these highly sociable animals that live in pairs or groups with several individuals.
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1. It is the African fox
Bat eared fox members are found in only two regions in Africa. The O. m. virgatus subspecies of this fox are found in Mara-Serengeti conservancy (Ethiopia, southern Sudan, and Tanzania). The O. m. megalotis subspecies are located in the southern part of Africa (Angola, northern South Africa, southern Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana). This makes it the African fox.
2. They use visual displays to communicate
How does bat eared fox communicate? The bat eared fox relies largely on visual cues for communication. For example, the head held high with ears erect and eyes open shows that they are looking at something intently. Submission is shown by ears pulled back and lying against the head, which is held low. An inverted U shaped tail is a sign of aggression or dominance while raised hairs puff up the fox so that it appears larger.
The bat eared fox’s eyesight is so good that anything up to 30 meters away can be identified in three stages. First, they will ignore the individual, followed by an intent staring. Finally, they will attack or approach the individual. Few vocal cues are used to communicate. However, especially during winter, they make contact and warning calls.
3. They use their ears for hunting
This fox derives its name from its huge ears used for thermoregulation. Interestingly, instead of smelling or seeing prey, they depend on auditory means to find their favourite meal, the termites. They hunt in pairs or groups of three and do not fight over food because they are very social and lack territorial boundaries.
4. The bat eared fox is insectivorous
Is a bat eared fox a carnivore? The animal is mostly insectivorous, with about 90% of their meals being harvester termites. This is one of the interesting bat eared fox facts because most people would probably think that the animal is a carnivore simply for being a canid.
What does a bat eared fox eat when the harvester termite is not available? It feeds on other termites and insects such as beetles, moths, and crickets make up meals. The insects eaten fulfil most of the animal’s water needs.
5. Their teeth are much smaller than those of other canids
The dentition is one of the bat eared fox adaptations to the insectivorous diet. Their small teeth are reduced in the shearing surface organization. They also have a step-like protrusion known as the subangular process on their lower jaw that supports the large muscle for rapid chewing, and their digastric muscle is modified to open and close the jaw 5 times in a second.
6. They like short grasslands
The bat eared fox habitat is mostly comprised of short grasslands, although the arid savannah regions are also an option. These are areas where grazers keep the grass shorter, which provides them with a suitable hunting environment. However, when threatened, places with longer grass serve as perfect hiding spots.
7. Parent roles are reversed
Unlike other canids, the females do not play a dominant role in raising the young ones. Instead, most parental care is handled by the males who raise their offspring in dens once lactation is over. The males’ roles include chaperoning, defending, grooming, huddling, and carrying the offspring from one den to another. The female will gestate and lactate the babies and then forage for food so that milk levels are high.
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8. Baby season is later in the year
Bat eared fox mature sexually when they are about 9 months old. Studies have shown that females give birth mostly between the months of September and November in the Kalahari. Those in Botswana do so between October and December. The gestation period lasts between 60 and 70 days. Typically, a litter contains one bat eared fox baby to six young ones who lactate for about 15 weeks.
What are bat eared foxes babies called? They are called kits. Lactation lasts for about 15 weeks, and the kits leave their families when they are 5 or 6 months old.
9. They do not make good pets
Some people domesticate foxes from the time they are young. However, generally, these wild animals do not make good houseguests like dogs, so it might be best to get the idea of a bat eared fox pet out of your head. However, if you are up to the challenge, then you can follow the right procedure for domesticating this wild animal.
Are bat eared foxes dangerous? They are not dangerous, but they may bite if provoked and tend to mess up houses. They tend to avoid humans. In fact, human beings are the dangerous ones as they contribute to the threat faced by the animal. For example, in Botswana, Otocyon Megalotis is hunted for its fur.
Although the animal can survive in the harsh wilderness, they face several challenges such as diseases and being hunted by humans. Nevertheless, their numbers are not threatened. So, the next time you are on safari and see an animal that meets the physical description above, then you will know that it is a bat eared fox. Share this wealth of knowledge about the canid with others so that they can also know more about this member of the fox family.
READ ALSO: List of illegal pets in South Africa
Briefly.co.za compiled a list of illegal pets in SA. Although the exotic pet trade is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the country, it is illegal to own some animals.
To legally own wildlife, one needs a permit from CapeNature Head Office or any of its regional offices. This way, you will avoid the charges that come with being in possession of illegal pets.
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