Dec 302009
photo provided courtesy of laverrue on Flickr Creative CommonsHomeMadagascar
HabitatTropical Rainforest
NicheApex Predator
Favorite FoodLemurs
Body Length23 to 30 inches
Weight20 to 30 pounds
ThreatsHabitat Loss, Illegal Hunting

The fossa is among the most unique of endangered Madagascar animals. It’s the largest carnivore roaming the fourth largest island on earth, stalking a territory of nearly two square miles in its hunt for other mammals. A solitary hunter with the ability to leap great distances and climb trees, it is one of the most specialized carnivores on earth, though scarcely bigger than a housecat.

Fossas belong to the mongoose family – small, agile hunters of the Old World – but in appearance, they resemble lean cats. They have the same short jaws, large frontal eyes, and rounded ears, but fossas are in no way related to felines, instead occupying their own special subgroup in the mongoose family. They are the apex predators of Madagascar, hunting all over its remaining rainforests. To soften its approach on a hunt, the fossa can retract its claws like a housecat and has excellent eyesight, allowing it to hunt at night.

Despite its formidable array of offensive weapons, it’s unlikely the fossa will be able to hold out much longer in the wild if deforestation in Madagascar continues at its present rate. These animals depend on thick foliage to launch ambush attacks on prey. They also maintain low population densities and without expanses of forest to stake out a large territory, individuals cannot survive. Driven from its traditional rainforest home and deprived of its traditional sources of prey, the fossa has been forced to move into human territory, often killing livestock for food. To protect their livelihood, farmers and ranchers have resorted to trapping and killing fossa, which has further impacted their numbers.

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