Vulpes zerda


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Vulpes zerda
Species Authority: (Zimmermann, 1780)
Common Name(s):
English Fennec Fox
French Fennec
Fennecus zerda (Zimmermann, 1780)
Taxonomic Notes: Sometimes included in the genus Fennecus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Asa, C.S., Valdespino, C., Cuzin, F., de Smet, K. & Jdeidi, T.
Reviewer(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
Listed as Least Concern as, although there is no detailed information on its abundance, the species is relatively widespread in the sandy deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa to northern Sinai. At present, there are no known major range-wide threats believed to be resulting in a population decline that would warrant listing in a threatened category.
2004 Data Deficient
1996 Data Deficient
1996 Data Deficient

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Widespread in the sandy deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa to northern Sinai (Saleh and Basuony 1998). References to Fennec sightings in the United Arab Emirates were based on an animal in the Al Ain zoo (Al-Robbae 1982), which was, in fact, a Rüppell's Fox (Gasperetti et al. 1985). Thesiger (1949) reported Fennec tracks in the region of Abu Dhabi, but there are no confirmed records of the species in the Arabian Peninsula.
Algeria; Chad; Egypt; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Niger; Sudan; Tunisia
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: They are common throughout the Sahara (Harrison and Bates 1991) and may occur to north Sahelian areas in the south to 14ºN (Dragesco-Joffé 1993; Granjon et al. 1995). The only documented regression concerns northern Moroccan Sahara, where the fennec disappeared during the 1960s from four localities, which were restricted sandy areas close to permanent human settlements (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).

Current statistics are not available, but the population is assumed to be adequate based on the observations that the fennec is still commonly trapped and sold commercially in northern Africa. In southern Morocco, fennecs were commonly seen in all sandy areas away from permanent human settlements (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Fennecs subsist in arid desert environments, preferring this substrate for burrowing. Stable sand dunes are believed to be ideal habitat (Dorst and Dandelot 1969; Coetzee 1977), although they also live in very sparsely vegetated sand dunes near the Atlantic coast (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.). Annual rainfall is less than 100 mm per year on the northern fringe of the fennec's distribution. On the southern fringe, it may be found up to the Sahelian areas that receive as much as 300 mm rainfall per year. In the Sahara, sparse vegetation is usually dominated by Aristida spp., and Ephedra alata in large sand dunes. In small sand dunes, it is dominated by Panicum turgidum, Zygophyllum spp., and sometimes by trees like Acacia spp. and Capparis deciduas (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The primary threat appears to be trapping for commercial use. In sandy areas commonly visited by tourists, the Fennec is well known, but because it is otherwise difficult to see, it is trapped for exhibition or sale to tourists (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.). Though restricted to marginal areas, new permanent human settlements such as those in southern Morocco have resulted in the disappearance of fennecs in these areas (F. Cuzin, pers. obs.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Listed in CITES – Appendix II. Occurs in protected areas in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia.

Legally protected in Morocco (including Western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Historically, the North American Regional Studbook (Bauman 2002) lists some 839 individuals that have been held in the North American region between 1900 and 2001. At the end of 2001, there were 131 individuals in 51 institutions. The Australian Regional Studbook lists 81 historically, with only 12 in the captive population at present. Although fennecs occur in European zoos, there is no studbook or management plan. Fennecs are also kept as pets and bred privately, but these records are not available.

Gaps in knowledge
While studies of captive animals have gone some way towards improving our knowledge of this little-known species (particularly as regards reproduction), much remains unknown of their basic ecology and behaviour in the wild. Work on captive populations is encouraged, but an in-depth study of the species, with particular emphasis on habitat use and population dynamics in the wild is overdue. Field studies underway in Tunisia are starting to redress this situation but undoubtedly more work is needed.

Bibliography [top]

Al-Robbae, K. 1982. Northeast extension of the geographic distribution of fennec fox Fennecus zerda (Zimmermann) in the Arabian Peninsula. Bulletin Basrah Natural History Museum 5: 61-64.

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

Bauman, K. L. 2002. Fennec fox (Vulpes zerda) North American Regional Studbook. Saint Louis Zoological Park, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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.

Cuzin, F. 1996. Répartition actuelle et statut des grands mammifères sauvages du Maroc (Primates, Carnivores, Artiodactyles). Mammalia 60: 101-124.

Dorst, J. and Dandelot, P. 1970. A field guide to the large mammals of Africa. Collins, London, UK.

Dragesco-Joffe, A. 1993. Le chat des sables, un redoutable chasseur de serpents [The sand cat - a formidable snake hunter]. La Vie Sauvage du Sahara, pp. 129 pp.. Delachaux et Niestlé, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Gasperetti, J., Harrison, D. L. and Büttiker, W. 1985. The carnivora of Saudi Arabia. In: W. Büttiker and F. Krupp (eds), Fauna of Saudi Arabia, pp. 397-461. Pro Entomologica c/o Natural History Museum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

Granjon, L., Cosson, J.-F., Cuisin, J., Tranier, M. and Colas, F. 1995. Les mammifères du littoral mauritanien. 2. Biogéographie et écologie. Actes du Colloque Environnement et littoral mauritanien, pp. 73-81. Nouakchott, Mauritania.

Groombridge, B. (ed.). 1994. 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, UK.

IUCN. 1990. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Noll-Banholzer, U. 1979. Water balance and kidney structure in the fennec. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 62: 593-597.

Saleh, M. A. and Basuony, M. 1998. A contribution to the mammalogy of the Sinai Peninsula. Mammalia 62: 557–575.

Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffmann, M. and Macdonald, D.W. (eds). 2004. Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Thesiger, W. 1949. A further journey across the empty quarter. Geographical Journal 113: 21-46.

Citation: Asa, C.S., Valdespino, C., Cuzin, F., de Smet, K. & Jdeidi, T. 2008. Vulpes zerda. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 06 July 2015.
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