Animal of the Month
October 2021

Name: Fossa

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Eupleridae
Genus: Cryptoprocta
Species: C. ferox

Size: About 6 feet long, including the tail.
Weight: 15.5-26lbs

Long, slender body with tail making half the body length; four legs with paws, small head with cat-like snout and ears.
Color(s): Brown with tannish belly.
Behavior: Active day and night, lives in trees and on grounds.
Preferred Habitat: Forests, especially humid forests.
Range: Throughout Madagascar.
Diet: Small and medium-sized animals, including lemurs.
Lifespan: 15 years in the wild.

Status: Vulnerable

Have you ever played the silent game? You wouldn't want to play with a fossa; they only make noises for three months out of the year! The largest carnivores of Madagascar, fossas (pronounced foo-sas or foosh) are master hunters. They can be found in humid and dry forests across the island.

Fossas resemble cats, but they are more closely related to mongooses. They have slender bodies of up to six feet in length. Their tails are long, making up half of the fossa's size! Fossas are comfortable in the trees and on the ground, making it easy for them to maneuver and catch prey. They especially prey on lemurs, but they are not picky eaters and also hunt fish, wild pigs, and birds.

Fossas are solitary creatures. They maintain individual territories and are able to cover up to sixteen miles per day. Fossas communicate largely through leaving their scent on trees and rocks. They only look for other members of their species during the breeding season, between September and December. The breeding season is usually the only time of the year that they vocalize! Females will mew to attract males, and males yowl when competing for females. Sometimes they roar when intimidated.

Fossas birth between December and March. When she is about to give birth, a mother fossa will find a safe place like an underground den or a hollow tree. A litter usually consists of 2-to-6 white-furred pups. After a few weeks, the pups' fur will darken, and after four or five months they will venture from the den. It takes about two years for a fossa pup to reach maturity.

Much is still not known about the fossa. They were once thought to be nocturnal because they were rarely seen during the day, but now scientists think this is mostly because they are confined to remote areas and were rarely seen. We now know that they are active both night and day, taking long naps between adventures. Hopefully we will learn more about the fossa as their habitat is explored and protected.

Fossas are rated as vulnerable. Like most species in Madagascar, their biggest threat is habitat destruction. 90% of the islands original forests have been cleared away, placing enormous pressure on fossas and their main prey lemurs. Fossas also face persecution from villagers; they are seen as pests and threats to livestock. Sometimes they are harvested for food. Some believe that these factors have left as few as 2,500 individuals left in the wild.

Currently there are few programs dedicated exclusively to preserving the fossa. Fortunately, many people are working hard to protect and restore the forests of Madagascar, which the fossas call home. The Rainforest Trust has purchased thousands of acres of rainforest to protect them from development. The Lemur Conservation Network is an alliance of over 60 nonprofits dedicated to protecting lemurs and their habitat, which benefits fossas. Big organizations like WWF are also making strides in preserving Madigascar biodiversity. It will take a lot of work, but there is hope that the fossa and other treasures of Madagascar will have a bright future.

To learn more about efforts to protect the wildlife of Madagascar, check out these awesome sites:

Lemur Conservation Network-A coalition of over 60 nonprofits dedicated to protecting the fossa's main prey-the lemurs-and the habitat they all call home!

World Wildlife Fund, Madagascar Page-Check out what WWF is doing for the animals of Madagascar!

Rainforest Trust-Consider supporting one of the Rainforest Trust's many projects to buy and permanently protect rainforests!

The fossa needs your help! You can make a huge difference by…

  • …telling everyone you know about the fossa and the unique forests they live in!
  • …asking your favorite conservation organizations to launch fossa protection projects in Madagascar!
  • …visiting Madagascar and being an ecotourist!
  • …raising money to protect the Malagascar forests and support local communities!


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