Friday, March 5, 2010

Bat-eared Foxes

One of the animals that you've probably never heard about or seen unless you've been at Harnas or in southern Africa is the bat-eared fox. They're only 3-5 kg or about 7-11 pounds.

We have three adults here--name He Re and Ro in honor of the Herero people who live in the area, some of which work and live at Harnas. From the three came a litter of six pups who are nearly grown now.

As you can see from this photo, the most obvious thing about them is their ridiculously big ears and cute pointy noses. The ears, though, are very practical. Their hearing is so keen that they can hear insect larvae (their favorite meal) underground so they can dig it up and have supper! They also eat things we don't want around like scorpions, termites, and locusts--and they DON'T eat sheep or lambs (which farmers mistakenly believe and so shoot them).

During the day they stay cool in their underground tunnels they dig over near the staff quarters--where I hang my laundry. The adults are extremely tame and allow people to bury their hands in their long fluffy hair. The pups usually let me get close and then bolt. This is how I know they're the non-tame ones.

Last night, after chasing down one of the jackals pups and returning her to the garden area (we can't figure out how she's getting out, but it was the second time yesterday I found her out on the lawn), I was sitting on the deck with some people in the early dark, and Marieta started to make this "LALALALALALALALA" singing sound.

No, she isn't crazy--or maybe she is, but this didn't prove it. Around the corner scampered the 9 bat-eared foxes--who roam the lawn area at night. They know that sound means cookies! They love these cookies that she throws them (well, to be honest, so do I, but I resisted fighting with the foxes for the bits and pieces).

I know it's dark, but watch closely when they come into the light. See their big ears and their skinny legs. (Actually, their legs aren't that skinny compared to their bodies, but their hair is sooo thick that it makes them look much larger than they are.)

Once they have their fill, they disappear with their big ears into the night.

So many amazing creatures that I never knew existed live here at Harnas. I would never have dreamed that I would be playing with jackals, grooming cheetahs, and petting bat-eared foxes in my lifetime, but here I am. Once the foxes had gone last night, I couldn't help but sit back and wonder at the life I'm leading. Sometimes being here, it's easy to get lost in the everyday, but in moments like last night I'm reminded how lucky I am--and how happy this place makes me.

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