Meet the Tibetan Fox, a rarely sighted animal with a unique facial expression




For a long time, fox got its reputation as clever or cunning. This reputation partially refers to their excellent hunting skills, but it’s also because of their sharp appearances which make them look smart.

The Tibetan fox, also known as the Tibetan sand fox, is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh plateau, Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan, up to elevations of about 5,300 m (17,400 ft). It is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, on account of its widespread range in the Tibetan Plateau’s steppes and semi-deserts.

The Tibetan fox is small and compact, with a soft, dense coat, conspicuously narrow muzzle, and bushy tail. Its muzzle, crown, neck, back and lower legs are tan to rufous coloured, while its cheeks, flanks, upper legs and rumps are grey. Its tail has white tips. The short ears are tan to greyish tan on the back, while the insides and undersides are white. Adult Tibetan foxes are 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 in), not including tail, and have tail lengths of 29 to 40 cm (11 to 16 in). Weights of adults are usually 4 to 5.5 kg (8.8 to 12.1 lb).

The Tibetan fox is restricted to the Tibetan Plateau in western China and the Ladakh plateau in northern India. It occurs north of the Himalayas in the northernmost border regions of Nepal and India, across Tibet, and in parts of the Chinese provinces.

Mated pairs remain together and may also hunt together.[10] After a gestation period of about 50 to 60 days, two to four young are born in a den, and stay with the parents until they are eight to ten months old. Their burrows are made at the base of boulders, at old beach lines and low slopes. Dens may have four entrances, with entrances being 25–35 cm in diameter.

At present, the Tibetan fox is not in danger of extinction, but it is still listed as a second-class national protected animal in China because of its ecological importance. As the main predator of plateau pika, if there are no Tibetan foxes, the local plateau pika would flood and destroy the grassland.

However, the concern of Tibetan foxes’ survival is rising with the dropping plateau pika population in recent years. Due to the government-sponsored pika poisoned programme and overgrazing, there is a possibility that the pika population would not just be controlled but even eliminated. Due to human disturbance, the balance of nature is on the edge now.

If Tibetan foxes lose their major food source, their survival status needs to be reassessed in the future.

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