The fossa’s body measures between 70 and 80cm long (27 to 31 inches), from the head to the base of the tail. The tail is half of the fossa’s body length at 65 to 70cm long (26-28inch). The male of this species is larger at 6.2 to 8.6 kilograms (13-19 pounds). The female fossa is 5.5 to 6.8 kilograms (12 to 15 pounds).
The fossa is coloured a reddy brown. The abdomen becomes orange throughout the breeding season when a gland on the chest secretes an orange coloured substance. A young fossa will be white or grey in colouration.
This carnivore is adapted for hunting at night. As such its eyes reflect an orange colour in the light. Their flexible ankles will allow them to climb up trees or come down them headfirst.
The fossa is the only predator which can kill the larger lemurs. This is because the fossa is quicker and better camouflaged than the lemurs.
Up to 20 years
The fossa is found exclusively on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa.
The fossa is found in forested areas throughout the majority of Madagascar. They prefer a humid forest to one which is dry.
The fossa breeds in September and October. Mating takes place up in a tree above the ground. The female will occupy this tree for up to a week mating with several males or sharing males with other females. The males will make a large number of vocalisations to attract the female. The female’s decision does not appear to be spurred by physical appearance.
Once the pair agrees to mate then the male will mount from behind the female and grasps her around the waist or on the shoulders.
After 3 months the mother will give birth to a litter of 2 to 6 pups in an underground burrow, termite mound or the hollow of a large tree.
The young weigh in at about 100grams and are blind with no teeth. They have a white or grey-brown coat which is quite small.
The eyes will open at 2-3 weeks of age and at the same time the fur will darken. At 12 weeks of age solid food is first introduced into their diet. They will then wean from milk about a month later. They are dependent on the mother until they are 13 months old. During this time they will gain her attention by making a noise known as mewling.
The adult size of the fossa is achieved at 2 years old and they become sexually mature at 2 years old.
The fossa is the top predator on the island of Madagascar. As such they do not come under threat from any predators except for humans.
The fossa lives on its own in a territory which is marked out using a scent released from a gland on their rear end. The majority of their time is spent up in the trees though occasionally they do descend to the ground to hunt.
Fossas are ambush predators. They will wait until an animal walks by then spring forward and grab the animal in its claws.
The fossa is not nocturnal as originally thought. They will hunt and move around at any time of the day or night depending on what best suits them.
Mongooses (animals like the meerkat) share a common ancestor with the fossa. It moved to Madagascar 21 million years ago.
The fossa is part of many Madagascan legends. Some believe the fossa’s scent will kill poultry, others believe that it will disappear completely if it contracts its pupils. Others say it comes into people’s homes and takes their babies. One of the stories which the locals tell is that the fossa can lick a sleeping person in a way that puts them in a trance from which they never wake.
“Cryptoprocta ferox” by Chad Teer – originally posted to Flickr as . Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cryptoprocta_ferox.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cryptoprocta_ferox.jpg
“Fossa zoo frankfurt-(jha)” by M.M. – selbst erstellt/own work by Littlenelle. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fossa_zoo_frankfurt-(jha).JPG#mediaviewer/File:Fossa_zoo_frankfurt-(jha).JPG
Hawkins, F. 2016. Cryptoprocta ferox. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T5760A45197189. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T5760A45197189.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2020.
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