“Bat-Eared Fox Kits Born at Brookfield Zoo,” by S.M. O’Connor

Three bat-earned fox kits were born at Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois on Saturday, March 23, 2019.  The two females and one male – Helen, Jane, and Edward – remained in the den for several weeks.  This is the first litter born to seven-year-old Stella and ten-year-old Pombe.  The three kits can now be seen in the habitat with their parents in the Desert’s Edge exhibit, the Chicago Zoological Society announced on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.  Pombe arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in the spring of last year based on the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Bat-eared Fox Species Survival Plan (S.S.P.).[1]


Figure 1 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A bat-eared fox kit with its father, Pombe.  Three kits were born at Brookfield Zoo on March 23, 2019.


Figure 2 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: A bat-eared fox kit with its father, Pombe.  Three kits were born at Brookfield Zoo on March 23, 2019.


Figure 3 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: These are two of three bat-eared fox kits born at Brookfield Zoo on March 23, 2019.  The two females and one male – Helen, Jane, and Edward – can be seen with their parents in the Desert’s Edge habitat.


Figure 4 Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: This is one of the three bat-eared fox kits born at Brookfield Zoo on March 23, 2019.

The bat-eared fox is native to the open grasslands of eastern Africa and southern Africa.  They are not considered an endangered species and are sometimes hunted for their fur or in defense of livestock.

In the wild, bat-eared foxes primarily eat insects, mainly termites, which they dig up.  In captivity, zookeepers feed them insects.

A unique characteristic of the bat-eared fox is its large pair of ears, which measure over five inches tall.  The ears five the bat-eared fox a superior sense of hearing that they can use to find insects.  A mother will also call her litter of kits to her with a high-pitched whistle.  Guests may notice the bat-eared foxes in the Desert’s Edge exhibit rotate their ears to locate insects they then dig up.

Another distinguishing trait of the bat-eared fox is that it has more teeth than most other mammals.  On each side of its mouth, a bat-eared fox has one more upper and lower molar than other members of the canine family.  Since they devour living prey, this helps them eat.

A mature bat-eared fox typically measures from eighteen to twenty-six inches and weigh from seven to twelve pounds.  As of May 22nd, the three kits at the Brookfield Zoo weighed between three and three-and-a-half pounds.

Founded to realize the vision of Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872-1932) for a cage-less zoo in Chicagoland, the Chicago Zoological Society operates the Brookfield Zoo on land that belongs to the Forest Preserves of Cook County (formerly the Forest Preserve District of Cook County).  Essentially, the C.Z.S. has the same kind of relationship with the Forest Preserves of Cook County that the Chicago Academy of Sciences,[2] the Chicago Historical Society,[3] The Field Museum of Natural History, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society have with the Chicago Park District.   Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist John T. McCutcheon (1870-1949) served as the first President of the Chicago Zoological Society from 1921 to 1948.  Architect Edwin Clark (1878-1967), who also designed two homes for Mister and Mistress James Ward Thorne,[4] a library in a third home,[5] and the first twelve Thorne Miniature Rooms,[6] designed the original buildings for Brookfield Zoo in the early 1920s and early ‘30s.[7]  The Brookfield Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (formerly the American Zoological Association).  The Brookfield Zoo opened on July 1, 1934, so it will turn eighty-five next month.

The North Gate Main Entrance of the Brookfield Zoo stands at the intersection of 31st Street, west of 1st Avenue and the Des Plaines River.  It is east of Salt Creek.  The address of the North Gate Main Entrance is 8400 31st Street, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.

The South Gate Main Entrance parking lot is adjacent to Riverside Brookfield High School.  The Regional Transportation Authority (R.T.A.) has two different public transit methods that service Brookfield Zoo at the South Gate Main Entrance.  It is a four-block-long walk north from the Hollywood Station on Metra’s B.N.S.F. Railway line, which connects Chicago to Aurora.  Consequently, in good weather, families will ride the train and get off at the Hollywood stop to walk to the zoo.  That train station is also labeled the “Zoo Stop.”  Walk north for two blocks along Hollywood Boulevard.  Then turn right to walk east for one block along Washington Avenue.  Next, turn left to walk along Golf Road.  Two Pace bus routes also have stops outside the South Gate Main Entrance: Route 304 and Route 331.  The address of the South Gate Main Entrance is 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, Illinois 60513.  The Website is https://www.czs.org/Chicago-Zoological-Society/Home.aspx.


[1] The American Zoological Association (A.Z.A.) changed its name to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is still known by the abbreviation “AZA.”  An S.S.P. is a cooperative population management-and-conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums.  Each plan manages breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population in captivity that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

[2] The Chicago Academy of Sciences operates the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.

[3] The Chicago Historical Society operates the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park.

[4] Susen Taras, “Thorne, Narcissa Niblack.” Rima Lunin Scultz and Adele Hast, editors. Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (2001), p. 880

See also Sally Sexton Kalmbach, Mrs. Thorne’s World of Miniatures.  Chicago and New Orleans: Ampersand, Inc. (2014), pages 33, 42, 43, 114, and 115

[5] Kalmbach, p. 33

[6] Kalmbach, p. 47

[7] John T. McCutcheon, Drawn from Memory: The Autobiography of John T. McCutcheon.  Indianapolis and New York City: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1950), p. 423

See also Andrea Friederici Ross, Let the Lions Roar! The Evolution of Brookfield Zoo.  Chicago Zoological Society (1997), pages 18, 20-23, 25, 39, 95, 96, 98, and 228

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