The small fennec fox is perfectly adapted to life in the harsh deserts of Africa, where daytime temperatures are record breaking, and freezing temperatures at night are not uncommon. The soles of the feet are covered by long, soft hairs that protect the feet from extreme temperatures, and help the fox walk on loose sand (2). Their large ears act like radiators and dissipate heat (5), as well as providing excellent hearing with which to detect prey (2). The fennec fox can subsist without water for an indefinite period, and survives by obtaining moisture through their food, and conserving water by remaining in burrows during the hot days and venturing out only at night. The thick, woolly fur helps insulate the fox against the cold, desert nights (2). The fennec fox starts to tremble with cold when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius, but incredibly, they only start to pant when temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius. When they do pant, their breathing rate rockets from 23 breaths per minute up to an astonishing 690 breaths per minute (4).
Fennec foxes are monogamous, and the pair lives with their offspring in a family unit of up to ten individuals (2). Fennec foxes mate in January and February and females give birth in March and April (5). Usually a litter of two to five cubs are born every year, after a gestation period of around 50 days. The male provides food and defends the burrow (which can be up to ten meters in length) until the cubs are four weeks old. They are weaned at 61 to 70 days and reach adult size and sexual maturity after only 9 to 11 months (2). In captivity, the fennec fox has been known to live for almost 13 years (2). Fennec foxes feed primarily on grasshoppers and locusts, but also eat other insects, rodents, birds, lizards and roots. They hunt alone and locate prey primarily by sound, killing their target with a bite to the neck (2).