Fossa

Fossa — The Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) (pronounced “FOO-sa” or Fah-suh) is a mammal endemic to Madagascar. A member of family Eupleridae, it is closely related to the mongoose. It is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island. (The largest carnivore on Madagascar is the Nile crocodile.)

Fossa males are 75–80 centimetres (29–31 in) long, plus a tail which is 70–90 centimetres (27–35 in) long; they weigh 6–10 kilograms (13–22 lb). Females are 65–70 centimetres (25–27 in) with a similar-sized tail; they weigh 5–7 kilograms (11–15 lb).

The Fossa is a very agile animal. It can leap from tree to tree and display an agility similar to squirrels. The Fossa is extremely cat-like in appearance and behaviour; it is often likened to the Clouded Leopard, a felid native to southeast Asia.

Recent observations indicate the Fossa may not be as nocturnal as was once thought. The rarity of this animal likely contributed to the belief that the Fossa is entirely nocturnal, but recent scientific study has found that it is active both during the day and at night, depending on season and prey availability. One of the biomes hosting the Fossa is the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. The best place to see the Fossa is in the Kirindy Forest, located about 70 kilometre north of the city of Morondava.

The Fossa is a carnivore. It is a ferocious hunter that eats small to medium sized animals, from fish to birds, but is particularly adept at hunting lemurs, and is the predominant predator for many species, and only Madagascar’s large snakes have any other significant predatory impact. Malagasy folklore often exaggerates the ferocity of the Fossa, claiming that it will prey on cattle or even humans. The fossil record of Madagascar has yielded the remains of a giant, recently extinct Fossa Cryptoprocta spelea. It was about 20% longer than big modern fossas and was about 6 feet long and weighed about 17kg. This species was believed to have preyed upon the larger, ape-sized lemurs that inhabited Madagascar until humans settled on island. The Fossa has no natural predators, but may be consumed incidentally by the Nile crocodile.

The Fossa is only found on the island of Madagascar (like many other unique animals that have been found there). In 2000, Luke Dollar (Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group) certified there were less than 2,500 mature individuals in fragmented areas in continuing decline. This certification earned the Fossa the status of Endangered (EN – C2a) by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Previously, the Fossa was listed as ‘vulnerable’. The Fossa is listed as a Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Appendix II animal, which puts restrictions on its export and trade.

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