Why I’m Not Killing This Fox

Morocco. Away from the main cities. Straw and mud huts standing outside of time, rise and fall out of the cinnamon and honey sand. As a tourist, I am only here because of the countless people who figured out a way to survive on this land despite every possible obstacle standing against them.  But I am here, on the cusp of the Saharan dunes, where the ground is a bed of black stones, and, as always, I am looking for an animal encounter, an adorable animal encounter.

Sahara Desert Dunes in the Distance - Morocco

Most of the world would have you believe that the Sahara is a climate only suitable for snakes, scorpions and camels, but, in reality, the conditions are home to a number of cuddly animals, ostriches, gazelles, antelope, etc.  I wanted to see, pet and play with them all, but especially the Jerboa and the Fennic Fox.

Photo via Mike White's Blog

Photo via Mike White’s Blog

Now while the Jerboa was high on my list, its size in comparison to the vastness of the desert, made it a foregone conclusion that I would probably not find it roaming free in the desert.  However, a close second on my list was the Fennec Fox – in my eyes it is essentially a tall eared, puffy terrier with a bushy squirrel tail. A Fennec Fox Sighting, this was possible, but only because of the area kids.

I didn’t realize what the kids were doing along the road until we were passing them, and while our guide was blaze to the whole experience, Jade and I were not; the breaks were slammed as soon as the words “you can pet” left our driver’s mouth.

Fennec Fox on Leash being held moroccoBacking down the road, we found three local boys around ten years old, each holding a fox on a thin rope leash. To be more specific, in these three sets of arms lay the world’s tiniest fox breed and all of my cuddling hopes for the day.

The first feelings I had was mixed, yes I wanted to see a fennec fox but I was also worried about what it meant for the fox that they were being kept by the boys. However, my trepidation didn’t slow me hopping out of the car and stroking the dog-like fur, bumpy from the bones just beneath the coat. The boys were cautious. They spoke with our guide and set the price as well as the level of interaction we could have with the fox, keeping a tight hold of the leash throughout the entire experience.

IMG_5207Here, where I am not killing the fox, I was to timid to hold the fox as the boy was instructing and it scampered away across my body while I clumsily tried to catch grab ahold of it. This was one of the best parts of the trip.

Thinking back on it, I was naive and judgmental to view the boys’ roadside ‘park n’ pet’ as dangerous to the animal or irresponsible to the ecosystem.  As I mentioned, the only reason I am able to visit the Sahara is because of the thousands of people who made living there possible. Unlike most cultures I visit, the people of the Sahara cannot be ignorant to the ecosystem around it and living there they must live alongside the climate. The boys who own and care for these fennec foxes are putting on a show for visitors, but at its root the experience must be genuine. They have to care for the foxes or tourists will have a negative experience. On the other hand, the foxes, have a much easier life than they would otherwise lead.

As we piled back into the SUV, I was so happy to have been able to hold the fox. I didn’t think twice about the animals treatment because I felt that the boys were taking care of their foxes the way I care for my dogs, and my only wish was that I could stand along the roadside with Bolt and Romeo for a living.