Vulpes chama (Cape fox)
silver jackal [English]; silwervos, silwerjakkals [Afrikaans]; Kapfuchs
[German]; renard du Cap [French]; mophèmè
[Sesotho]; lesiê, losiê [Setswana]; !Khamab [Nama, Damara]
Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia >
Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates) >
Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost
fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class:
Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia
(terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota >
Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia
> Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals)
> Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria
> Ferungulata > Ferae > Carnivora > Family:
Canidae (foxes, dogs and jackals)
The only true fox found in southern Africa. They
are active mainly at night although can be seen in the early morning
and evening. Pairs mate for life and rear their litters in burrows.
Prey consists mainly of invertebrates and rodents but they also hunt
birds and reptiles and also eat fruit. They also do sometimes kill
new born lambs (up to three months old) on sheep farms but it has
been shown that this is rare and the effect of this on sheep stocks
The only ”true” fox in the subregion. It has a
typical fox-like appearance. The back and sides are a grizzled
silver-grey, with the neck, legs, and chest lighter, from a pale
reddish-brown to almost white. The hind limbs have a dark brown
patch on the back of the thighs. The throat is normally white. The
canines are long and slender and curved at the tips. The cheek teeth
are adapted primarily to deal with insect prey but have some cutting
ability sufficient to deal with prey such as lizards and mice. The
pointed muzzle is also light in colour and the large ears are long
and pointed. The ears are reddish - brown on the back and have an
inner white fringe. The bushy tail is long and usually darker than
the rest of the body.
Total Body Length: 86-97 cm; height at
shoulder 30cm; weight range 2.5 - 4 kg.
C P M =
Distribution and habitat
Only found in the southern African subregion
and extends into south-western Angola. They prefer areas of open
country, grassland with or without scattered scrub, and coastal or
semi-desert with scrub. Also found in the wheatlands and fynbos
vegetation of the Western Cape.
Cape foxes are mainly active at night
(nocturnal) but are seen during the morning or evening. They
normally occur alone or in pairs. During the day they shelter in
holes, hollows or dense thickets. It is an active digger and will
excavate its own burrows, but often modifies those dug by another
species to their requirements.
The Cape fox is normally silent, but
communicates with soft contact calls, whines and chirps. It uses a
loud bark when alarmed.
Diet primarily consists of
invertebrates and rodents. Other prey includes reptiles,
carrion and wild fruit.
Pairs mate for life (monogamous), and family
groups consist of parents and their offspring. Different family
groups may mix together when feeding. Gestation period is about 50
days. Litters of two to five cubs are born in underground dens from
October to January, dispersing in June or July. Females maintain
contact with their young until they disperse. Life span: 6 years.
Predators, parasites and commensals
Predators occasionally include large raptors
and Caracal and they succumb to diseases such as rabies and
Their resemblance to jackal leads to conflict
with stock farmers who falsely accused of them of killing live
stock. In the past they were widely persecuted and hunted as vermin.
Although this still occurs today, many modern farmers are better
informed. It has been shown that they rarely kill new-born lambs and
are only capable of killing lambs up to the age of 3 months old.
Studies over recent years have shown that the effect on sheep stocks
was so minimal that any control measures were not economically
viable. They also become victims of traps set for problem animals
and large numbers are killed on the roads. Currently the species is
not regarded as threatened but there is the future threat of loss of
suitable habitat due to human activities, building, farming, etc.