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The 58 gram fennec fox kit feeds every two hours on Pedialyte mixed with a puppy formula.

Animal handler Marie Martinez listens to the chest of the kit to make sure it has been burped after feeding.

The feet of the fennec fox kit are so sensitive even soft towel are hard on the newborn. Safari West handlers treat them with a lip balm after every feeding.

Only two days old, the soon to be giant ears are completely sealed. Over the weeks they will open and develop.


Billy is a mature fennec fox raised by handlers at Safari West.

I need to change the tag line for this blog to photo tips and really cute baby animals. This week’s awww comes in the form of a two-day old fennec fox. The native of the Sahara desert in North Africa adapted to its environment by developing shockingly large ears. With little prey in the desert, they use their 6 inch ears when locating food underground. Legend has it fennec fox can hear the beating heart of a lizard nearly a foot under the sand. The ears also dissipate heat, so you’ll be correct when guessing the Arctic fox’s small ears retain heat.

Fennec foxes are nocturnal, with thick fur and a bushy tail they use as a blanket on cold desert nights. During the day they burrow and sleep out of the hot sun. In their enclosure at Safari West, a den was built for the mating pair so the top could be removed if handlers need to help the foxes.

Just like some human moms, this fox mother wasn’t very good at taking care of her young. Handler Marie Martinez assumed the role of surrogate mom for the 58 gram pink kit (a kit is a baby fox). Marie will take her home each night for the next few weeks, waking every two hours to warm up a dropper of Pedialyte (for human children) mixed with a puppy formula for her feeding. As a surrogate, she must mimic the fennec mom in the wild. After feeding she cleans and rubs the kit (like the mom licking them clean) to stimulate the system to pee and poop as well as burping like a human baby. The burps are so tiny and inaudible, Marie must hold the babies chest to her ear to make sure the breathing is clear.

Soon they will start biting Marie on the nose but not out of malice. In the wild the kits emerge from the den to bite the nose of the parents on their arrival after hunting. This stimulates the fox to regurgitate food for the kits. More awwww……so sweet.

For the photographers in the crowd a few tips on the shoot. There are only a couple ways to shoot this. I used a macro lens for the feeding shot with a flash bounced into the wall on my left. I like bouncing from a side wall so the light wraps around the subject, creating shadows on the right side of the kit. When bouncing the light straight up, you lose shadows and the image become more two dimensional. I bumped my ISO to 1250 so there would be enough flash power to shoot at f/8. Watch out when shooting with a macro at f/2.8. The depth of field is so low, very little would be in focus. After looking through the shoot, I wish I had shot with an even smaller aperture.

I also tried a 35mm lens. The 4 inch kit requires the photographer to move close and low in order to put Marie behind the little guy. If I back up, the kit becomes to small in the frame.

I plan on following this gal for a few months as she grows so keep checking Photojournalist for updates.

John

Billy is a mature fennec fox raised by handlers at Safari West.

Marie Martinez cleans the kit to stimulate it to burp, pee and poop.

Only two days old, the soon to be giant ears are completely sealed. Over the weeks they will open and develop.

The feet of the fennec fox kit are so sensitive even soft towels are hard on the newborn. Safari West handlers treat them with a lip balm after every feeding.

Animal handler Marie Martinez listens to the chest of the kit to make sure it has been burped after feeding.

 

 

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