Bat-Eared Fox

Year:
1997
43 Views


Africa's Kalahari is 100,000

square miles of dust and blowing sand.

But in this place where dry winds

vibrate with the sounds of life,

one creature lives

by the faintest whispers and cries.

These are bat-eared foxes,

and they survive here

because of their enormous, oval ears.

From their first days as pups,

they enter an unforgiving world

where their survival will depend on

detecting sounds

whether it's a meal hiding in the dirt,

or danger approaching

on silent at feet.

And at night, when vision dims,

they truly come into their own...

hunting their prey...

dodging those that stalk them.

This is the story of

one family's struggle to survive-

a year in the realm of the desert fox.

In an isolated corner of Botswana,

along the dried-out bed

of the Nossob River,

a fox we call Selene keeps

her small eyes and big ears wide open.

Together, she and her mate, Ajax,

have found a home

in this inhospitable land.

They've borrowed a den from their

closest neighbors, the meerkats.

Selene and Ajax need

the underground shelter.

It's November, early summer

in the Kalahari,

and the foxes are raising a family.

As afternoon draws to a close,

Selene heads off in search of food,

leaving Ajax behind to baby-sit.

Only three weeks old,

the pups are just beginning

to emerge from the den,

and Ajax is a protective father.

But these four little bundles of fur

will prove enough to challenge

even the most watchful parent.

There's Ajax's daughter,

Flash, and her three brothers.

Adventure is the explorer,

always first out of the den.

Kinky has a bent tail and,

as his father can see,

a feisty little disposition...

unlike the runt of the litter,

Little Joe.

The young pups are growing up

in a dangerous world,

but in this part of the Kalahari,

there's a neighborhood watch...

a meerkat sentry keeping an eye

peeled for predators.

Ever vigilant in a precarious realm,

the meerkats are extremely

protective of their young.

And what these animals lack in ears,

they make up for with their eyes.

A guard is always ready

to raise the alarm.

They spot the neighborhood menace,

a black-backed jackal on the prowl.

From a distance,

he may look like another fox,

but he's a definite threat

to their young.

Ajax senses the coming danger,

rising to meet the threat.

The jackal is bigger, but

when it comes to defending his pups,

the little fox is ready to fight...

...unlike his adversary.

The end of the dry season brings

many animals to the Nossob riverbed

in search of water

and a place to graze.

The bat-eared foxes' home range

can extend up to two square miles

of this scrubland.

An area

they constantly forage for food.

In daylight,

Selene often hunts by scent or sight.

Termites are a dietary staple

and it's no problem finding them

as they scamper in the dirt.

As night falls,

her hunt does not stop.

Instead, it begins in earnest.

The dark hours are a dangerous time

to be alone in the Kalahari.

But Selene is now in her element.

And all night

she will rely on her ears.

She uses those unmistakable ears

like radar

and they guide her to meals

burrowed underground.

By comparison, a scorpion is loud...

and dangerous.

But bat-eared foxes will eat them,

stinging tail and all.

The jackal also stalks at night...

and Selene's determined

to send him on his way.

Arching her back

and bristling her hair,

she confronts the intruder

and defends her ground.

But the jackal isn't up

for a fight tonight.

A cautious victor,

Selene sees him off...

then settles down to the

more productive business of listening.

This time her search is interrupted

by an unfamiliar sound.

It's another bat-eared fox, crippled, and on the run.

This little one was most likely

injured by a predator.

Now it will be lucky

to last the night.

Selene recognizes her own species,

but she can't afford to stay.

His injury is a magnet for danger...

and in the night,

danger comes in the form of lions.

The crippled little fox

never had a chance.

The Kalahari is home to

many predators...

and bat-eared foxes

are always at risk.

Next morning, Ajax is still keeping

watch over the pups,

waiting for his turn to feed.

Adventure is already up and about,

investigating.

Flash, on the other hand,

never misses a chance to get

in a little extra grooming...

and a snuggle with her father.

Little Joe and Kinky

stick close to the burrow.

There's relative safety by the den...

especially when a meerkat sentry

sounds the local alarm.

It seems some new neighbors moved in

during the night.

And the meerkats aren't at all

happy about it.

They're cape foxes

and they're not welcome.

They may be relatives

of the bat-ears,

but these are full-blooded omnivores.

They'll eat anything,

even a meerkat baby.

One cape fox youngster has been left

at the den

while its parents are off on a hunt.

He's just a pup no a real threat but

the meerkats want to bully him out.

They inch their way closer,

testing the wind,

just in case his parents return.

Then they set out

to give him a good scare.

The young cape fox is frightened,

but no more than those

who torment him.

The truth is,

even half a dozen meerkats

don't amount to much of a threat.

And now it may be too late.

The mother cape fox is on the horizon.

Cape fox parents may spend more time

away from home

than the bat ears,

but they do eventually return...

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