Aarti Dhar

Small carnivore of the family CanidaeInhabits alpine meadows with rolling terrain

NEW DELHI: The Tibetan sand fox (Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson), previously not recorded from India, has been observed in the Changthang region of the Indian Trans-Himalaya.

Also known as the Tibetan fox or sand fox, it is a small carnivore of the family Canidae. This finding, published in the Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, was made by Tsewang Namgail, Sumanta Bagchi, Yash Veer Bhatnagar from the Nature Conservation Foundation and Rinchen Wangchuk from the Snow Leopard Conservancy. The fox was observed during surveys funded by the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, U.K., the International Snow Leopard Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society, U.S.

The Tibetan fox has long been known to the local people of Changthang as Sili. The occurrence of the species, however, remained unreported, perhaps because large tracts of remote eastern Ladakh bordering China remains out of bounds for many surveyors. It is also possible that those who visited the area and saw the animal mistook it for the red fox, widely distributed in Ladakh. Although the Tibetan fox's distribution overlaps with that of the red fox V. vulpes over large tracts of the Tibetan plateau, the two foxes are morphologically different.

The red fox is larger with dark grey to black legs and tail. They also somewhat differ in their habitat use, as the Tibetan fox inhabits alpine meadows with rolling terrain, whereas the red fox occupies relatively rugged terrain, and is often found in wooded areas as well.