Rueppell's fox, Sand fox, Rüppell's sand fox
Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppellii ), also called Rüppell's sand fox, is a fox species living in desert and semi-desert regions of North Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia. It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2008.It is named after the German naturalist Eduard Rüppell.
The Rüppell's fox is a species of a fox named after the German naturalist Eduard Rüppell. These are small foxes and males appear somewhat larger than females. The coat is sandy in color, ticked with numerous white hairs, and fading from reddish along the middle of the back to pure white on the underparts and on the tip of the tail. The chin and the sides of the face are white. Rüppell's foxes have fur on the pads on their feet, that possibly helps distribute their weight and move easily on sand; it also keeps the hot sand from burning their feet. Similar to other desert-dwelling foxes, Rüppell's foxes have large ears to cool them off.
Rüppell's foxes live in North Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia. In North Africa, they are found across the south of the Atlas Mountains, from Mauritania and Morocco in the west to Egypt and Djibouti in the east. They also occur in the Arabian Peninsula southwards from Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, and as far east as Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Within this region, Rüppell's foxes prefer sandy or rocky deserts, but may also be found in semiarid steppes and sparse scrub.
Rüppell's foxes are either crepuscular or nocturnal animals. During the day they shelter in dens that are usually dug under rocks or trees. Outside of the breeding season, their dens are small and can hold only one adult fox, and the animal typically changes dens every five days or so. Breeding dens are larger and occupied by a pair of adults and their kits. Rüppell's foxes have anal scent glands, which they use to greet one another and to spray predators. Females also use their scent glands to mark the cubbing den. Rüppell's foxes occupy distinct territories, which they mark with urine. The territories of the members of a mated pair overlap almost completely but are entirely separate from those of any neighboring pairs. These territories are maintained throughout the year, although the pair occupy separate dens outside of the mating season. The size of the territories varies with the local terrain and the foxes range widely during their nocturnal foraging. Thye may travel over 9 km (5.6 mi) in a night. In order to communicate with each other these animals make a series of short barks during mating and, at other times, can also produce hisses, trills, and sharp whistles. They are also known to wag their tails, like domestic dogs.
Rüppell's foxes are omnivores. They feed on beetles and insects, small mammals, lizards, and birds. Plants eaten include grasses and desert succulents, fruits such as dates, and they have also been known to scavenge from human garbage.
Rüppell's foxes are monogamous and mate for life. They breed in November, a few weeks after the female has prepared her breeding den. Litters up to 6 kits, although more usually just 2 or 3, are born after a gestation period around 52-53 days. The young are born blind and are weaned at 6-8 weeks of age. They reach independence at about 4 months, when they may travel up to 48 km (30 mi) in search of a suitable territory. Rüppell's foxes reach reproductive maturity within the first year after birth.
The main threats to Rüppell's foxes are hunting and poisoning. In some parts of their range, they compete with Red foxes for resources.
According to IUCN, the Rüppell's fox is widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Rüppell's foxes play an important role in the ecosystems they inhabit because they control populations of small rodents and insects they prey on.