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On The Prowl For Fossas

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 28 May 2010

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Considering the incredible diversity of wildlife in Madagascar, it may not be surprising that our team keeps coming back with amazing stories of the most incredible animals, including the bizarre spear nosed snakes and geckos which look like leaves! Even the locals of Madagascar can be blown away with some special encounters… Recently the Madagascar Forest team were pleasantly surprised with a unique opportunity to witness one of the shyest creatures in Madagascar. Or rather two of the shyest creatures: a pair of mating Fossas!

Our Principal Investigator was recently very surprised to hear that whilst he was away on a small excursion collecting data at one of the satellite camps, the camp guardian and other volunteers were lucky enough to catch sight of two Fossas getting frisky on top of his hut! Whilst not the most convenient of places many may argue, it was still an amazing sight!

Fossas are the largest mammalian carnivore on the island (the largest carnivore being the Nile Crocodile) and are particularly renowned for being quite elusive. As such, the main prey item in the Fossa’s diet are lemurs. By looking at the Fossa, it would be reasonable to assume that it is a member of the cat family, whilst it is indeed a Feliformia; fossas are actually more closely related to the mongoose family, Herpestidae, than to any of the better known cats.

Sadly, since human colonisation of Madagascar, and - more recently - the increase in destructive farming practices, Fossa’s populations have been declining, and they are now classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Redlist, with less than 2,500 mature individuals believed to be remaining. As with all of the fantastic creatures which can be found in the forests of Madagascar, the surveys carried out by Frontier help us get a better understanding of the important biodiversity present in these last remaining forest fragments.

Whilst Fossas are very elusive creatures, the Madagascar Team are always on the prowl for new sightings of these magnificent animals.

James Harber