Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Zootropolis fans in China flock to buy rare £2,000 fennec foxes

 Inspired by a character in the hit Disney animation, parents are forking out for the protected Saharan species despite its unsuitability as a pet
Monday 11 April 201611.46 BSTLast modified on Monday 11 April 201611.47 BST

Chinese fans of Disney animated smash hit Zootropolis are flocking to buy rare fennec foxes, despite the miniature African species being unsuitable as pets,reports the LA Times.

Zootropolis, titled Zootopia in the US, is the story of a city populated by talking animals. One of the central characters is a wily con-artist red fox, whose sidekick Finnick is a fennec. The species, which is native to the Sahara, is known for its nocturnal habits and unusually large ears.

The Times reports the animals, which are appealing to city dwellers as a smaller alternative to the more populous red fox, are available to buy in China for about $3,000 (£2,100), despite being prohibited from public sale. A rush of interest followed Zootopia’s March debut in Chinese cinemas. The film is now the highest-grossing animation of all time in the world’s most populous nation, with receipts of $231m.

“We normally sell them to zoos, but have received quite a few phone calls after the screening of Zootopia,” an employee of a wild animal import-export company in Liaoning province told the Times. “One family from Jiangsu province bought a fennec fox from us not long ago. Then I received three other parents’ calls, demanding the foxes.”

Other fennec purchasers, however, told the Times they had already decided to try to sell the animals on, after discovering they do not make great pets. The foxes are unsociable, cannot be house-trained and make a lot of noise at night.

Fennec foxes are not endangered, but experts believe any increase in Chinese imports could lead to populations of the rare animals struggling in the wild.

“If trading fennec foxes becomes widely practised in China, the illegal trade of fennec foxes from their native region will certainly increase,” Zhang Jinshuo, an associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology, told the Times. “That will reduce the number of wild fennec foxes and ultimately could lead to the extinction of the species.”

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