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The Bat–eared Fox Project
Asks for a future
The Bat-eared Fox Project was founded in June 2000 in Dortmund, Germany, as a non-profit organisation (Das Löffelhund-Projekt e.V.) for the protection of small carnivores, especially the bat-eared fox on farmland in Namibia. Since March 2003 the project has its base on the farm Nanania No 47 in the south of Namibia.
The principle of the Bat-eared Fox Project is the efficient mixture of scientific research and the protection of wildlife. Our research provides us with the data about behaviour and living conditions of bat-eared foxes and other small carnivores on farmland. But also enables us to understand more about the influence of factors like poaching, road kills and infections on the survival of these species.
The Bat-eared Fox Project was initiated without a time limit and we hope to become a permanent Institution in Namibia. That is why we intent to build up a research and information centre on Nanania, which will also house a small clinic for orphaned and injured wild animals. Very important for us is a good relationship with Namibian farmers, from which we already receive a lot of interest and support. This is the reason why the future information centre will especially encourage the exchange of information with and between farmers and farmworkers. As we can only be successful in our aim to protect wildlife on farmland in close cooperation with the farmers and their employees.
But we also want to make as many people as possible aware of the diversity of Namibian wildlife and how important it is to save as many species as possible.
In cooperation with Dr. Tubbesing from the Rhino Park Veterinary Clinic, we could also build up a relocation program for unwanted wild animals, like leopards, cheetahs, caracals and many more. Cage trapped animals normally get shot, but we could ask the farmers to let us pick up and relocate these animals.
The most urgent support we need as soon as possible is enough funds to cover our current maintenance costs and to purchase a second hand 4x4. This would for now give us the chance to continue with our research work and to concentrate on the future of the Bat-eared Fox Project.
Fanta is on air
During the last three month the habits of our bat-eared fox family has changed tremendously. Round about mid of December they made their first longer excursion from the den. During that trip, Fanta took her offspring also to our farmhouse. While she came in as usual, the youngsters waited patiently in a secure distance outside.
In the period following, the 4 puppies explored more often on their selves the immediate and distant vicinity, causing problems for Fanta to lead them back to the den. At the age of 10 weeks, mid of February, there was nothing holding the puppies anymore at their place of birth. The bat-eared fox family went further and further around within our farm area and took only very seldom a rest at their former den to spend the hottest time of the day. Fanta reduced visiting the farmhouse the more the family roamed around from the den. In the vicinity of the former burrow we installed a feeding place for the foxes, which they visit regularly, but not every night.
To observe the future development of our bat-eared fox family on our extensive farm area, we decided to equip Fanta with a radio collar. Waiting for two days in vain for the bat-eared foxes at the feeding place we went into the field to find them. Very soon we discovered fresh track and digging trials in the soft sand. Only a few meters later, Fanta came out of the dense bush and started her greeting ceremony with Malta and us. Nearby the 4 puppies waited curiously, but came closer after a while.
When the first excitement calmed down and Fanta relaxed, we seize the opportunity to mount the radio collar. Within seconds the collar was fixed around her small neck although Fanta refused to accept for a short moment. Now she jumped into the air to get rid of the collar, followed by scratching with her hind leg. But soon she gave up and came back to us and started feeding. Obviously the radio collar doesn’t have a big effect on her freedom of movement.
Thus, we will be able in future to locate the bat-eared fox family easily although we might have no direct sight. The radio signal helps us to draw conclusions about their behaviour.
We say a hearty thank you to Dr. Wolfgang Bischoff from Dülmen, Germany. He took care of the sponsorship of Fanta and donated the bat-eared fox project the radio collar.
For three long weeks we were waiting curious about their very first appearance.
Finally, one Friday evening we tiptoed carefully and with anxious anticipation closer to Fantas den. Immediately we were rewarded with the view into two faces out of four of the total offspring. At this point, we were not sure about Fantas reaction of our visits. So we decided in the beginning to restrict the observation period to a short moment. Also we left Malta, Fantas dog-friend back in the farmhouse (For Malta this step found no sympathy at all!).
But some days later we noticed that Malta was already a regularly guest at the bat-eared fox den without our knowledge. So she became acquainted with Fantas puppies by walking clandestine to the den every day. In the meantime we became also regularly visitors and walk now freely to the den. Fanta always greets us joyfully and seems to us feeling a bit lonely at the den. During daytime when it gets quite hot outside, Fanta loves to stay inside the farmhouse while her puppies sleep in the safety of the den. Sometimes we start all together in the cooler evenings to visit the den.
Although the little bat-eared foxes don’t share the mother’s faith in us, they get from day to day more used to our big and for them certainly frightening appearance. But still, they always stay watchful and run away by any quick and unexpected movement to their den by sounding their typical alarm call (a short single “wuff”). If Fanta is suckling her little puppies they forget about the world around them. Then they even accept our very close presence or busy being licked of by “aunt” Malta.
Despite of Fanta’s own offspring or even encounters with and contacts to wild-living bat-eared foxes there is no sign of her cutting the cord to Malta or us. Apparently we get more accepted because we replace her partner who couldn’t withstand the pressure of the nearby farmhouse and Maltas regular visits.
We will report at regular intervals here more about the further development of Fanta and her offspring. Stay curious!!!
“Fanta” has offspring
As we hoped, our bat-eared fox „Fanta“ had found a partner on her nocturnal forays. Unfortunately we couldn’t observe how they got in touch with each other.By the end of October we recognised that everything seemed to indicate that Fanta was pregnant. In course of the following weeks she built a den, probably with the help of her partner. Finally Fanta gave birth to her offspring on 10.November.
Now we decided to keep some distance to the den and its surrounding area, avoiding any unnecessary disturbance. As soon as her puppies will start to explore the environment of their den by themselves, we’ll begin with our first observations.
With the help of Fanta, we hope to gain the confidence of her kiddies as well. This will enable us to watch their further growing up and development in between wilderness and farming activities.