Bat eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)

The bat-eared fox is a small but striking silver-grey insectivore, unmistakably identified by its huge ears and black eye-mask, and is often seen in pairs or small family groups during the cooler hours of the day.

Small and jackal like with slender legs and a sharp pointed, fairly long muzzle. Ear are very large (14 cm), dark to black on the black on the back surface, towards the tip, white on the inside and pale grey around the edges. The body is covered in fairly long, silvery grey hair with a distinctly grizzlede appearance and the legs are black. The bushy tail is black above and at the tip. The front of the face is generally black, with light or white band running across the forehead to the base of ears.

Associated with dry open country, the bat-eared fox is quite common in the Kidepo and Pian Upe, but absent elsewhere in Uganda.

Bat-eared fox in Kidepo Valley Uganda

Diet

Their diet primarily consists of insects and other arthropods, and occasionally small rodents, lizards, the eggs and chicks of birds, and plant matter. The Harvester termite (Hodotermes) and dung beetles (Scarabidae) can make up 80 percent of the fox’s diet.

Bat-eared foxes obtain much of their water from the body fluids of these insects. The termites often feed on grass above ground, where they are then eaten by the foxes. Because large herbivores such as wildebeest, zebra and buffalo also feed on this grass, bat-eared foxes are usually found near large herds of these hoofed animals.

Furthermore, bat-eared foxes are also associated with these mammals since they eat the dung beetles that feed on and lay eggs in the ungulate’s feces. The foxes use their large ears to listen for beetle larvae gnawing their way out of the dung balls. Bat-eared foxes usually forage alone. However, where insect prey is abundant, bat-eared foxes may occur in very high densities. They can actually harvest more termites by foraging in a group than if they hunted separately over the same ground at the same time.

Bat-eared Fox Behavior

They mark their home range boundaries with urine. The groups consisted of an adult mated pair and their young. Pairs sleep in the same burrow, forage and rest together, often lying in contact, social-groom and play with one another, and protect and assist each other. In South Africa, homeranges overlap extensively, with little or no territorial marking. In these areas two or three breeding dens are sometimes clustered within a few hundred meters, probably due to locally suitable soil or vegetation.

Population density may reach 10 individuals per square kilometre. Benefits of group living for bat-eared foxes include increased termite harvesting, enhanced predator-detection, and the opportunity for offspring to learn by imitation what to eat and how to get it.

Play behavior among young pups shows similarities to escape behavior because, as adults, bat-eared foxes tend to show escape behavior rather than fighting behavior.

In Uganda bat-eared fox can be easily spotted in Kidepo Valley National Park and Pian Upe in south western Uganda.

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