Otocyon megalotis 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Canidae

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: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-03-14
Assessor(s): Hoffmann, M.
Reviewer(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C.
Contributor(s): Nel, J.A.J., Maas, B. & Woolham, M.
The Bat-eared Fox occurs in two discrete subpopulations in eastern and southern Africa. The species is widespread and is common in conservation areas, becoming uncommon in arid areas and on farms in South Africa where they are occasionally persecuted. There are no major threats believed to be resulting in any major range-wide declines.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Least Concern (LC)
2004 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

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. Subspecies 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; Nel and Maas 2004, 2013; Skinner and Chimimba 2005). There are no confirmed records from Zambia (Ansell 1978). 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).
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; 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). Recorded densities include 0.7-14/km² in the Kalahari (Nel et al. 1984) and 0.3-1.0 / km² in the Serengeti (Hendrichs 1972).
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

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

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Commercial use is very limited, but winter pelts are valued and sold as blankets. They are also sold as hunting trophies in South Africa.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats, but they are subject to subsistence hunting for skins or because they are perceived as being predators of small livestock. Populations fluctuate due to disease (especially rabies and canine distemper, which can cause short-term drastic declines in populations) or drought (which depresses insect numbers).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is not included in the CITES Appendices. It is present in a number of protected areas across its range (see Nel and Maas 2004, 2013).

Bat-eared Foxes are kept in captivity in North America, Europe, South Africa and Asia, although never in large numbers. A Bat-eared Fox European StudBook was established at Banham Zoo in 2011 and an AZA Studbook has been established at Peoria Zoo in Illinois (2012/2013) (M. Woolham pers. comm. 2013). 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.

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).

Classifications [top]

2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Shrubland -> 3.8. Shrubland - Mediterranean-type Shrubby Vegetation
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:No
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Minority (<50%) ♦ severity: Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score: Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Minority (<50%) ♦ severity: Negligible declines ⇒ Impact score: Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.2. Problematic native species
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Minority (<50%) ♦ severity: No decline ⇒ Impact score: Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.2. Droughts
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Minority (<50%) ♦ severity: No decline ⇒ Impact score: Low Impact: 4 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
0. Root -> 4. Other

♦  Wearing apparel, accessories
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Ansell, W. F. H. 1978. The Mammals of Zambia. pp. 73-74. The National Parks and Wildlife Service, Chilanga, Zambia.

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (comps and eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Coe, M. J. and Skinner, J. D. 1993. Connections, disjunctions and endemism in the eastern and southern African mammal faunas. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 48: 233-256.

Coetzee, C.G. 1977. Order Carnivora. Part 8. In: J. Meester and H.W. Setzer (eds), The Mammals of Africa: An Identification Manual, pp. 1-42. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Heindrichs, H. 1972. Beobachtungen und Untersuchungen zur Ökologie und Ethologie, insbesondere zur sozialen Organisation ostafrikanischer Säugetiere. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 30: 146-189.

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2014).

Kingdon, J. 1977. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Volume IIIA (Carnivores). Academic Press, London, UK.

Lamprecht, J. 1979. Field observations on the behaviour and social system of the bat-eared fox Otocyon megalotis Desmarest). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 49: 260-284.

Maas, B. 1993a. Behavioural ecology and social organisation of the bat-eared fox in the Serengeti national Park, Tanzania. D.Phil. dissertation, University of Cambridge, UK.

Maas, B. 1993b. Bat-eared fox behavioural ecology and the incidence of rabies in the Serengeti National Park. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 60:389-393.

Mackie, A. J. and Nel, J. A. J. 1989. Habitat selection, home range use, and group size of bat-eared foxes in the Orange Free State. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 19: 135-139.

Malcolm, J. R. 1986. Socio-ecology of bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis). Journal of Zoology (London) 208: 457-467.

Marais, E. and Griffin, M. 1993. Range extension in the bat-eared fox Otocyon megalotis in Namibia. Madoqua 19: 187-188.

Nel, J. A. J. 1993. The bat-eared fox: a prime candidate for rabies vector? Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 60: 396-397.

Nel, J. A. J. and Maas, B. 2004. Bat-eared Fox Otocyon megalotis (Desmarest, 1822). In: Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffmann, M. & Macdonald, D.W. (ed.), Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 183-189. IUCN, Gland.

Nel, J. A. J. and Maas, B. 2013. Otocyon megalotis Bat-eared Fox. In: Kingdon, J. & Hoffmann, M. (ed.), Mammals of Africa. Volume 5. Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses, pp. 78-81. Bloomsbury, London.

Nel, J. A. J., Mills, M. G. L. and Van Aarde, R. J. 1984. Fluctuating group size in bat-eared foxes (Otocyon m. megalotis) in the south-western Kalahari. Journal of Zoology (London) 203: 294-298.

Rathbun, G.B. (subeditor). 2005. Macroscelidea. In: J.D. Skinner and C.T. Chimimba (eds), The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 3rd edition, pp. 22-34. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Stuart, C.T. 1981. Notes on the mammalian carnivores of the Cape Province, South Africa. Bontebok 1: 1-58.

Waser, P.M. 1980. Small nocturnal carnivores: ecological studies in the Serengeti. African Journal of Ecology 18: 167-185.

Citation: Hoffmann, M. 2014. Otocyon megalotis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T15642A46123809. . Downloaded on 31 May 2016.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided