Otocyon megalotis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Otocyon megalotis
Species Authority: (Desmarest, 1822)
Common Name/s:
English Bat-eared Fox
French L'otocyon, L 'Otocyon

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Nel, J.A.J. & Maas, B.
Reviewer/s: Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
The Bat-eared Fox occurs in two discrete subpopulations in eastern and southern Africa. The species is common in conservation areas, becoming uncommon in arid areas and on farms in South Africa where they are occasionally persecuted. Currently not considered threatened.
2004 Least Concern

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Bat-eared Fox has a disjunct distribution range, occurring across the arid and semi-arid regions of eastern and southern Africa in two discrete populations (representing each of the known subspecies) separated by about 1,000 km. O. m. virgatus ranges from southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia down through Uganda and Kenya to south-western Tanzania; O. m. megalotis occurs from Angola through Namibia and Botswana to Mozambique and South Africa (Coetzee 1977; Kingdon 1977; Skinner and Smithers 1990). The two ranges were probably connected during the Pleistocene (Coe and Skinner 1993). This disjunct distribution is similar to that of other endemic, xeric species e.g., Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) and Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas).

Range extensions in southern Africa documented in recent years (e.g., Stuart 1981; Marais and Griffin 1993) have been linked to changing rainfall patterns (MacDonald 1982).
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is common in conservation areas in southern and eastern Africa, becoming uncommon in arid areas and on farms in South Africa where they are occasionally persecuted. Within a circumscribed habitat, numbers can fluctuate from abundant to rare depending on rainfall, food availability (Waser 1980; Nel et al. 1984), breeding stage and disease (Maas 1993a,b; Nel 1993).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: In southern Africa, the prime habitat is mainly short-grass plains and areas with bare ground (Mackie and Nel 1989), but they are also found in open scrub vegetation and arid, semi-arid or winter rainfall (fynbos or Cape macchia) shrub lands, and open arid savanna. The range of both subspecies overlaps almost completely with that of Hodotermes and Microhodotermes, termite genera prevailing in the diet (Mackie and Nel 1989; Maas 1993a). In the Serengeti, they are common in open grassland and woodland boundaries but not short-grass plains (Lamprecht 1979; Malcolm 1986); harvester termite (H. mossambicus) foraging holes and dung from migratory ungulates are more abundant in areas occupied by bat-eared foxes, while grass is shorter and individual plants are more widely spaced (Maas 1993a).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In southern Africa the primary threats are hunting for skins or because they are perceived as being predators of small livestock. Commercial use is very limited, but winter pelts are valued and sold as blankets. They are also sold as hunting trophies in South Africa. Populations fluctuate due to disease or drought.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is not included in the CITES Appendices.

Occurs in protected areas in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Bat-eared Foxes are kept in captivity in North America, Europe, South Africa and Asia, although never in large numbers. There are no management programmes or studbooks for the species in any of these regions. Importations have occurred throughout the history of the captive population despite successful captive breeding since 1970. Bat-eared foxes can coexist well with other species and are frequently seen in African plains exhibits at zoos.

There is a conspicuous lack of information about both abundance and population trends in this species across its range. In southern Africa, little is known about dispersal of young and the formation of new breeding pairs. The causal factors for differences in home range size in different localities, group size and changes in density as a function of food availability are poorly known. In the Serengeti, behavioural evidence on group and pair formation and the existence of 'super families', consisting of one male and up to three closely related breeding females, raises interesting questions about regular inbreeding between males and their daughters from several generations (see Maas 1993a).
Citation: Nel, J.A.J. & Maas, B. 2008. Otocyon megalotis. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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