July 25, 2020

"Fossa" - the carnivore having monkey tail, cat claws and dog muzzle!

Fossa| Madagascar Civet| Lemurs| Fossa eating Lemurs| Fossa looks like cat or dog| Depletion of Madagascar jungle.

One of the most mysterious animals living in the dense humid forest of Madagascar has been a question of debate among scientists. It resembles a cat but is not. Some say it is close to a dog but has retractable claws and a long tail like a monkey. So what is it exactly? 

Fossa in Madagascar
Image Source-  Google | Image by - Pikist

This majestic creature is called Fossa (Scientific name-Cryptoprocta ferox). Studies show that it is a mammal which may seem to be like a cat but belong to the mongoose family. It is a very rare animal which is very hard to locate in the jungles and hence discoveries are yet to be made about the species. 

Habitat and Distribution

Fossa also commonly known as Madagascan Civet is endemic to the dense humid forest of Madagascar, an African island in the region of the Indian Ocean. It is the fourth largest island in the world located off the southeastern coast of Africa. 

Madagascar humid forests are moist broadleaf ecosystem home to a plant and animal species out of which 80-90% are endemic to the region.


Image Source-  Google | Image by - Pixabay
It is home to more than 200,000 species of flora and fauna which includes 11000 plant species,420 kinds of reptile species, 5 groups of bird families, and a wide variety of mammals. 

Size and Description

A fossa’s tail is equal in length to the rest of the body which helps it to grab and hold branches of the trees for excellent maneuverability during hunting. The lifespan of a fossa in the wild is around 15 years.

 This mammal can grow up to 6 feet long from the tip of their nose to the end of the tail and can weigh around 20-25 pounds. It has retractable claws, long tail, forelimbs, and sharp teeth to catch its prey. 

Image Source-  Google | Image by - commons.wikimedia

It has a slender body like that of a cat with little resemblance to its mongoose cousins. Its coat is reddish-brown and muzzle like that of a dog.  

Fossa has a unique mating pattern in which the female occupies the specific mating tree which is limited in the region and once a female is done mating with a male, another female occupies that tree.
Fossa delivers 2 to 4 cubs in different places such as rock crevices and hollow bark of trees. 

The cubs are born blind and after two weeks the young ones open their eyes. These fossa cubs are ready to leave the den after 4 to 5 months. 

Diet and Habits 

The fossa is a carnivore that hunts both day and night and usually prefers to be on the trees. It can hunt on the ground as well as on tress because of its sharp claws, long tail, and strong jaws. 

While they eat small mammals, fish, lizards, birds, frogs, and even insects but most of their diet almost 50 % is comprised of their favourite prey lemur monkeys. There are around 8 species of lemur that exist today in the jungles of Madagascar.
Fossa eating a lemur  
Image Source-  Google | Image by - Pxhere

Fossa being an excellent predator in the wild apart from certain crocodile attacks and the obvious human incursion into the forest has no natural enemy in the forest and rules the food chain in the Madagascar ecosystem.

Conservation of the Fossa and Madagascar Forests

The IUCN red list has declared fossa as vulnerable for extinction in the near future. The biggest reason behind declining fossa species is habitat loss. 


Fossa taking a nap on a tree
Image Source-  Google | Image by - Pikist

In recent years, only 10% of the total forest cover remains in Madagascar of which around 1-2% is further declining every passing year. Most of the species of flora and fauna like the Lemurs have been completely destroyed.

In the region before there used to be a wide species of endemic lemur monkeys, but in today only 15 species are surviving some of which are critically endangered.  

Black and white ruffed lemur 
Image Source-  Google | Image by -Peakpx

The forest of Madagascar faces frequent forest fires and more land is deprived of vegetation for agricultural activities. A recent study shows that if this ecosystem destruction is not contained, fossa and other incredible animal species will soon become history.  

Fossa| Madagascar Civet| Lemurs| Fossa eating Lemurs| Fossa looks like cat or dog| Depletion of Madagascar jungle.

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