Endangered Species of the Week: Darwin’s Fox

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Darwin’s fox is found in only two places in Chile: the Nahuelbuta National Park and on the Island of Chiloè. These carnivores feed on mammals, reptiles, beetles and other invertebrates. Named after scientist Charles Darwin, who discovered the species in 1834, Darwin’s foxes are critically endangered. It is an “umbrella species,” so by protecting the primary temperate forests where they live, the entire ecosystem can be preserved. Habitat loss and non-native species, such as dogs, threaten these foxes.

The species was previously cIassified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, but in 2016 was downlisted to Endangered, as its area occurrences is apparently substantially larger than originally believed. Current estimates of the total population are still low, with an estimated minimum 227 individuals on the mainland and 412 on Chiloé Island. Fragmentation of forest adjacent to the national park and on the island is a concern for their conservation, and feral dogs may pose the greatest threat to their survival by spreading disease or directly attacking. Persecution by people who think that the foxes attack domestic fowls, though they pose little threat, is also a potential problem.

Tepuhueico-Chiloé ©ECM_7126-L

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