Angela Key’s encounter: from the Auob riverbed to the studio

Each year, The Cape Gallery hosts an exhibition of artwork by some of the best wildlife artists in the country. These artists are passionate about wildlife and conservation. Their inspiration often stems from personal experiences with their subjects. Angela Key recalls a close, touching encounter with a family of Bat-Eared Foxes, which inspired a work included in the current Wildlife Exhibition:

Angela Key; 'Bat Eared Fox Family'; Pastel; 38 x 63 cm

Angela Key; ‘Bat Eared Fox Family’; Pastel; 38 x 63 cm

“We’ve been scrutinizing every inch of the Auob riverbed for more than a month.

We almost missed them curled up among the fallen branches of a camelthorn…only the enormous ears exposed them: a pair of bat-eared foxes.

In the Kgalagadi, you often see these charismatic little foxes trotting along the riverbed, backs arched, dish-shaped ears pivoted forward. Acting as parabolic reflectors, their ears can amplify the slightest sound, even beetle larvae and harvester termites located deep underground. When it hears something, the fox stops, digs frantically with its forefeet and then chomps triumphantly on a termite.

These foxes have finished foraging for the night. The sun will soon rise over the red dunes flanking the banks of the Auob. A Kalahari Robin strikes up a few tentative notes, announcing the coming dawn.

As if responding, the female fox rises, stretches and shakes the dust from her coat. She scans up and down the riverbed before approaching us. We are parked within 5 meters of an old aardvark burrow. The fox approaches the entrance and calls softly. Two black-tipped ears twitch in the first rays of light…a fluffy face peeps at us, eyes blinking, then disappearing back into the darkness. We remain motionless.

Minutes pass…then magically two pups emerge. Legs firmly planted, the female braces herself. The pups attach themselves to her teats, bushy black tails wagging, front paws pummelling her belly to stimulate milk flow. When the female’s finished nursing, the male attends to grooming each pup thoroughly and keeping a watchful eye as they charge from one bolt-hole to another, tumbling in the thorny scrub and collapsing in plumes of dust. This is undoubtedly the highlight of our past two months in the Kgalagadi and a delight to draw every day at the easel!”

View Angela Key’s work

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