General Studies IIIEnvironment and Ecology

Desert Fox and Mange Disease


Recently a few Desert Foxes were spotted in the scrub forests of Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, suffering from a loss of fur due to the Mange Disease.

About Desert Fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla):

  • Desert Fox or the White-footed Fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla) is one of the most widely-distributed carnivores in the world.
  • They are a subspecies of the Red Fox and are generally found in the desert regions of northwest India.
  • The yellowish-brown coat of the Desert Fox helps them camouflage against the brown hues of their habitat.
  • Desert Foxes mainly feed on rodents and gerbils by digging them out of their burrows or stalking and hunting them.
  • They are known for the complex dens they create during the breeding season to protect newly-born pups.
  • In the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), the Indian desert fox is a Schedule I species.
  • Desert fox can be seen in the Desert National Park and Tal Chhapar Sanctuary (specially the Guashala region) in Rajasthan. Gujarat’s Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Little Rann of Kutch, also hosts the desert fox.
  • Threat:
    • They are threatened by habitat loss, road-related mortality and negative interactions with free-ranging/domestic dogs.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
    • CITES listing: Appendix II
    • India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act: Schedule II

What is Mange Disease?

  • Mange is a skin disease of animals caused by mite infestations, characterized by inflammation, itching, thickening of the skin, and hair loss.
  • The most severe form of mange is caused by varieties of the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which also causes human scabies.
  • Some form of mange is known in all domestic animals, although many varieties of mange mites infest only one species.
  • They are transmitted between animals by direct contact and by objects that have been in contact with infested animals.
  • Most forms of mange are treatable.
  • When the infected animal scratches and the skin breaks, it lays eggs and multiplies. The affected area becomes scabbed and no hair grows there.

About foxes in India:

  • India is home to three fox species and three subspecies:
    • the Indian Fox,
    • Tibetan Sand Fox
    • The Red Fox, which has three subspecies:
    • Desert Fox,
    • the Tibetan Red Fox and
    • the Kashmir Red Fox
  • India’s fox species occupy a range of habitats, including arid areas, grasslands, agricultural fields and snow-capped mountains.
  • The Red Fox is the most versatile in terms of habitat adaptation and can reside in open drylands as well as high-altitude areas.
  • Even though their population is not threatened, the population of desert foxes has been in decline over the last decade.
    • Cultivation and urbanization of lands has reduced their habitat areas and that threat will only get worse in the future.
    • One of the biggest threats the desert fox faces is disease from domestic animals like dogs, which prove fatal to them.

About IUCN

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a multiparty organization, having members from both the civil society organizations (CSO) and the governments.
  • With over 1400 member organizations, IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
  • IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation.
  • IUCN was established in 1948 in the French town of Fontainebleau.
  • Its aim was to encourage international cooperation and provide scientific knowledge and tools to guide conservation action.
  • During the first decade of its establishment, IUCN’s primary focus was to examine the impact of human activities on nature.
  • In this period, IUCN flagged the damaging effects of pesticides on biodiversity, and promoted the use of environmental impact assessments, which have since become the norm across sectors and industries.
  • In 1964, IUCN established the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which is world’s most comprehensive data source on the global extinction risk of species.
  • In 1980, IUCN – in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – published the World Conservation Strategy, which helped define the concept of ‘sustainable development’ and shaped the global conservation and sustainable development agenda.
  • Later in the 2000s, IUCN pioneered ‘nature-based solutions’ – actions to conserve nature which also address global challenges, such as food and water security, climate change and poverty reduction.

Red Data Book: IUCN Red List

  • The IUCN Red List of threatened species is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.
  • It is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive.
  • It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.
  • The IUCN Red List helps to guide and inform future conservation and funding priorities.
  • The pink pages in the book contains the critically endangered species.
  • Green pages, on the other hand, are used for those species that were formerly endangered but have now recovered to a point where they are no longer threatened.

Source: Down To Earth

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