San Diego, California - A three-month-old fennec fox is full of energy and ready to play in the Children's Zoo Nursery at the San Diego Zoo. The young male, who weighs just 1.5 pounds, is in quarantine before training to serve as an animal ambassador for his species.
The nocturnal fox pup has spurts of energy, so animal care staff have been giving him lots of toys and food puzzles to help keep him busy. For example, mealworms are hidden in cardboard boxes or in his sand mound, which encourages the fox to use some of his natural searching and digging behaviors. The fox's favorite toys to play with are small, plush toy mice.
"Fennec foxes are great hunters, and in order to foster those natural behaviors, we will give him some stuffed mice that he'll toss around and pounce on as if he's practicing hunting," said Becky Kier, senior Neonatal Assisted Care Unit keeper at the San Diego Zoo. "In the wild he would normally dig for insects in the sand, so we provide him with something to dig through to encourage that behavior as well."
The fennec fox weighs about three pounds when full grown, making it the smallest fox in the world. Large, bat-like ears provide extraordinary hearing that can help locate prey underground or up to 1.5 miles away. Another fennec fox adaptation is long, insulated fur (even on their feet) that protects the animal from sun and hot sand, which the fox would encounter in the Sahara Desert.
Guests visiting the Zoo can see the fennec fox in the Children's Zoo nursery in the Zoo's Discovery Outpost.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts representing both plants and animals at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.