Thursday, June 07, 2007

Island Fox Born at Santa Barbara Zoo

(photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Zoo)

Spring is pupping season for the endangered Channel island foxes and each birth is a celebration. While we are waiting to hear how many pups were born out on the islands, the Santa Barbara Zoo happily announced the birth of a new island fox.

The male pup was born April 12, 2007, to a pair of older parents from San Clemente Island. The mother was unable to nurse the tiny pup and therefore it is being handreared by the Santa Barbara Zoo staff.

Fitting in the palm of your hand, the pup weighed only two ounces at birth–less than 2 AA batteries. Staff members attended to feedings six times a day, 24 hours a day, and the pup quickly doubled its weight.

As of Thursday June 7, the latest update is...

“It seemed like he was perhaps premature when he was born and a bit undersized. But within a month or so, he caught up to where he needed to be. He now weighs 1.4 pounds. He still gets two bottles of formula a day but has teeth and is eating solids. He receives our omnivore diet, like the other Island foxes we have, which is a canine mix, sort of like dog chow. We supplement that with small chunks of various vegetables and with baby food (chicken and rice, vegetables with turkey, turkey dinner). We are happy that he’s doing so well and heading towards normal development. We will soon start giving him some time and exposure with our male fox whose mate died recently. Hopefully, they can be companions.”

Currently this brings the total number of island foxes in Zoos to 12. Where can you visit a zoo with island foxes.

Alan Varsik, Director of Animal Programs and Conservation at the Santa Barbara Zoo and FIF board member, adds “The birth of this pup will further enhance our ability to continue to tell the conservation story of the island fox and the unique and special habitat that it lives in.”

Captive breeding has played an important role is reestablishing island fox populations. What is captive breeding? Animal management protocol developed at the Santa Barbara Zoo and other zoo facilities has helped provide valuable information on how to keep island foxes safe and healthy in captive environments.

Working together zoos and conservation land managers are saving this endangered species. Friends of the Island Fox supports their efforts and works with them to educate the public about the island fox and its unique habitat, the Channel Islands.