The Bat-eared Fox is probably the most attractive Canid occurring in South Africa. Adults weigh in the region of 4kg and stand up to 40cm high at the shoulder. They inhabit open, dry areas – scrublands, grassland, semi-desert and open savanna – where their favourite prey, the harvester termite, occurs. While termites constitute up to 80% – 95% of their diet, they also consume other insects and invertebrates, some small vertebrates, eggs and wild fruit that they come across. They find their prey underground using their exceptional hearing, for which the outsized ears come in very handy, and then dig it out with their front paws. They can survive without access to drinking water, sourcing enough for their needs from their food.
Bat-eared Foxes are active by day and night, warming up in the early morning sun and resting up in burrows (which they dig themselves or take over from other mammals) or deep shade during the heat of the day. They are usually seen in groups numbering from 2 – 13, consisting of an adult pair (that may remain together for life) and their offspring. The female gives birth to litters of 1-6 pups annually, usually in the rainy season. Both parents take an active part in raising the pups, with the male being more involved in their care than is the case with most other members of the dog family. The youngsters grow quickly and are fully grown by the time they’re 4 months old. Bat-eared Foxes may live from 6 to 12 years in the wild, being susceptible to various diseases and drought (due to the negative impact it has on their preferred prey) and featuring on the menu of all the larger carnivores.
Bat-eared Foxes occur in two discrete parts of the African continent – one population in East Africa (from Somalia and Sudan to Tanzania) and the other in the western parts of Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and marginally into Angola, Zambia and Mozambique). Though they are occasionally hunted for their pelts or as perceived stock thieves, this is thankfully not a major threat and the IUCN considers the Bat-eared Fox to be of least concern. Mokala National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are excellent locations to find and photograph the Bat-eared Fox.