Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley — which opened April 18 — is excited to announce the birth of two Fennec foxes.

Fennec foxes are native to the Sahara and Sinai deserts of North Africa, and are active hunters of small mammals and reptiles, according to a Wednesday release from zoo director Lee Jackson. Fennec foxes are the smallest of all fox species and are known for their unusually large ears — that serve to both locate prey underground and to dissipate heat from their bodies in the harsh desert environment, he said.

These endearing small members of the fox family are favorites among zoo visitors. The baby foxes — or “kits’ as they are called — are a boy and a girl. They are the 8th and 9th such foxes born at the zoo and its first girl.

One of the two Fennec foxes born recently at Niabi Zoo.

The two kits were born on April 12th to Niabi’s male Carlos and female Lidi, both of whom are first-time parents. Carlos came to Niabi from another zoo. Lidi was part of a group of animals confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during an illegal animal importation, Jackson said.

Proud papa fox Carlos at Niabi Zoo.

These two new foxes are an important addition to the breeding population in North America and are managed through a corporative population management plan, currently made up of only 139 individuals, he said.

Fennec fox Lidi is the mother of the baby girl and boy foxes at Niabi.

The Niabi Zoo partners with more than 40 other zoos in North America to manage the breeding of this species.

“This cooperative breeding program helps not only assure that these beautiful animals will be here for zoo visitors to be inspired by,” Jackson said. “This is the third litter of Fennec foxes born here at Niabi, and they will be placed in homes at other zoos in coming months. We are excited to be able to make a significant contribution to the program. We look forward to continued success with this species.”

For more information, visit the zoo website.