The fennec foxes are pets all over the world but at the Honolulu Zoo they're used as educational tools.
“You kind (of) fall in love with Puka because she’s such a sweetheart,” said zookeeper Solomon Kahanui. “She’ll just, like, melt in your arms.”
At three pounds, Puka is a full-grown fennec fox.
“They live in very hot desserts,” Kahanui said. “Low water. They come from the Sahara, northern part of Africa.”
The foxes can survive well in very hot environments with little water. When they get thirsty, they skip drinking water and hydrate a different way.
“They don’t walk up to a pond and drink,” Kahanui said. “They actually get it from the food they’re eating. Insects, small mammals.”
When the foxes hunt, they are quick on their feet and jump up to two feet high. Their light coats also help them blend in with the sand around them.
Puka’s coat reflects the sun, so she doesn’t get too hot. More fur is also under her paw, so she’s not uncomfortable when she steps on the hot ground.
The foxes’ ears are also designed to help them survive hot climates. Because they are so large, the ears dissipate their body heat.
Living underground also helps the foxes keep cool.
“That’s where their house is, you might say, and also (used) for protection” Kahanui said. “That can be as large as 1,000 feet long, these little tunnels that they build.”
Because the foxes dig so deep, zookeepers had to add a wire mesh in their exhibit underground to keep them from getting out.