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North Africa & the Middle EastFennec fox Vulpes zerda

Least Concern

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. 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.). 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.

Population trend:Unknown

(Fennec fox range map)
(Click on map for more detail)

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.).


Major Threats:

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:

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.