Fossa — a large predatory animal with large fangs, which is very similar to a mixture of a huge otter and a cougar. Found in the forests of Madagascar. The locals of the island call it the lion. The gait of the beast is similar to a bear. The closest relatives of the nocturnal predator were hyenas, mongooses, and not the cat family. Viverrids are distant relatives.
Origin of the species and description
Fossa — the oldest inhabitant and the largest mammal in Madagascar. The only representative of the genus Cryptoprocta. The animal is so rare that it is nowhere else on earth. On the territory of the island, a predator can be found everywhere, except for the mountains. In the distant past, his relatives reached the size of a lion, an ocelot.
Giant fossas became extinct after humans killed the lemurs they fed on. Only fossilized bones remained from the cave fossa. According to scientists, this predator has been living on the island for more than 20 million years.
Appearance and features
The massiveness and squatness of Fossa resembles a lion. The body length of the animal can reach 80 cm, tail length 70 cm, height at the withers 37 cm, weight up to 11 kg. The tail and body are practically the same length. The tail is necessary for a predator to maintain balance at a height and to move along the branches.
Males are usually larger than females. The body of wild predators is dense, elongated, the head is small with protruding round ears, the neck is long. 36 teeth, including large, well developed canine teeth. Like a cat, round eyes that reflect light and long, hard, well-developed vibrissae, which are necessary for predators to live at night. The long legs are strong and muscular with sharp claws. The forelimbs are shorter than the hind ones. When walking, the animal uses the entire foot.
The coat is thick, soft, smooth and short. The coat can be dark brown, reddish, or reddish-brown, which helps to blend in with the shades of the forest, savannah and be invisible. Phosses are very mobile, moving through the trees with enviable speed. Like a squirrel jumping from branch to branch. They instantly climb the trees and easily go down them head first. The cat can't do that. Sounds are made by familiar — they can growl, or they can meow like our kitties.
Cryptoprocta — this scientific name was given to the animal due to the presence of a hidden anal pouch that is placed around the anus. This bag contains a special gland that secretes a secret of bright color with a specific smell. Predators need this smell for hunting. Young females are endowed with an interesting feature. During puberty, their clitoris grows in size to such an extent that it becomes absolutely similar to the penis of males. Inside there is a bone, thorns like on an aggregate of the opposite sex, and even an orange liquid is produced. A bump resembling a scrotum appears on the genitals.
But all these formations disappear in the female by the age of 4, when her body becomes ready for fertilization. The elongated clitoris shrinks and turns into the normal female genitalia. It seems that nature protects females from premature mating.
Where does the fossa live?
Fossa — endemic, as it belongs to endemic species of animals and lives exclusively in a certain geographical area. Therefore, you can meet this unique peculiar predator from the mongoose family only on the territory of Madagascar, except for the central mountain plateau.
The animal hunts almost all over the island: in tropical forests, in fields, in bushes, in search of food it enters the savannah. Fossa is equally found in the tropical and humid forests of Madagascar. Prefers dense forests in which they create their lairs. If the distance is more than 50 meters, then it moves more readily on the ground. Avoids mountainous terrain. Does not rise above 2000 meters above sea level.
It digs holes, likes to hide in caves and in hollows of trees at high altitude. Willingly hides on the forks of trees, in abandoned termite mounds, as well as between stones. The only predator on the island that roams freely in open spaces.
Recently, these exotic animals can be seen in zoos. As a curiosity they are transported all over the world. They are fed with cat food and meat, which they are used to eating in natural conditions. Some zoos can already boast of having fossa puppies in captivity.
What does a fossa eat?
С In the first months of life, a carnivorous predator feeds its babies with meat.
Its habitual diet consists of the meat of small and medium-sized animals, such as:
- wild boars;
It is the shy Madagascar lemurs that make up the main source of food, a favorite delicacy for foss. But catching them is not easy. Lemurs move very quickly through the trees. In order to get your favorite «dish» it is important for a hunter to run faster than a lemur.
If a dexterous predator manages to catch a lemur, then it is already impossible to get out of the clutches of the beast. He tightly clamps his victim with his front paws and at the same time tears the back of the poor fellow's head with sharp fangs. The Madagascar predator often waits for its prey in a secluded place and attacks from an ambush. Easily copes with a prey that weighs the same.
Fosses are greedy by nature and often kill more animals than they can eat themselves. Thus, they earned themselves a bad name among the local population, ruining the village chicken coops. The villagers have a suspicion that chickens do not survive from the disgusting smell emanating from the anal glands of a predator.
Character and Lifestyle Features
In terms of lifestyle, foss is compared with an owl. Basically, they sleep in secret places during the day, and at dusk they begin to hunt. Hunters sleep more during the day. According to recent studies, it has been revealed that these unique animals sleep, hunt, regardless of the time of day. It is enough for a predator to sleep a few minutes during the day to restore strength and roam its territory.
Fosses lead an active way of life around the clock. It all depends on the mood and circumstances: on the season, the availability of food. They prefer the earthly way of life, but for the purpose of hunting they deftly move through the trees. Fosses are loners by nature. Each animal has its own labeled territory of several square kilometers. It happens that several males adhere to the same territory. They hunt alone. The only exception is during the period of reproduction and rearing of young offspring, where the young with their mother hunt in a group.
If you need to hide, then the animals dig a hole on their own. They cover five or more kilometers per day. They roam their domains slowly. Usually they cover no more than one kilometer per hour. Run very fast if needed. And it doesn't matter where to run — on the ground, or on the tops of trees. They climb trees with powerful paws and long sharp claws. They wash themselves like cats, licking all the dirt from their paws and tail. Excellent swimmers.
Fossas have ideally developed:
A cautious, strong and attentive animal, whose body is quite resistant to various kinds of diseases in natural conditions.
Social structure and reproduction
Fosses lead a solitary lifestyle until the breeding season, which is typical in autumn, in September-October. During the mating season, the female emits a very strong odor that attracts males. Several males begin to attack her. When the female is ready to mate, she climbs a tree and waits for the winner. Males become less cautious, aggressiveness appears. They make threatening sounds in the form of a growl and arrange fights among themselves.
The male, which turned out to be stronger, rises to the female on the tree. But it is not at all necessary that she will accept a boyfriend. And only on condition that the male approaches her, she turns her back, raises her tail, sticking out her genitals. The male stands behind, grabs the «lady» for the scruff. The process of mating in the crown of a tree with one male lasts up to three hours and is accompanied by licking, biting, grumbling. Everything happens like dogs. The only difference is that dogs don't climb trees.
Needle long penis securely creates a lock and a couple for a long time waiting for the end of the process. During the week, mating continues, but with other males. When one female's estrus period ends, then other females with estrus take her place on the tree, or the male independently goes in search of an individual of the opposite sex. Usually for each male there are several females that are suitable for them to copulate.
The mother-to-be then searches alone for a safe, secluded place for her offspring. She will wait for the kids in about 3 months, in December-January. Usually, from two to six completely helpless cubs weighing 100 grams are born. It is interesting that other representatives of viverrids have only one baby.
Puppies are blind, toothless at birth, covered with light fluff. They become sighted in about two weeks. They begin to actively play with each other. A month and a half later, they crawl out of the den. Closer to two months, they begin to climb trees. For more than four months, the mother feeds the babies with milk. At a year and a half, the young leave their mother's hole and begin to live separately. But only by the age of four, young offspring will become adults. The life expectancy of these animals is 16-20 years.
The fossa's natural enemies
There are no natural enemies in adult foss, except for humans. Local residents do not like these animals and are even afraid. According to them, they attack not only chickens, but there are cases when pigs and cattle disappeared. Because of these fears, Malagasy liquidate animals and do not even eat them. Although fossa meat is considered edible. Juveniles are preyed upon by snakes, birds of prey, and sometimes Nile crocodiles.
Population and species status
Fosses on the island are common in all parts, but their numbers are small. There was a period when they counted only about 2500 units of adults. To date, the main reason for the decline in the population of this species of animals — loss of habitat. People thoughtlessly destroy forests, and the number of lemurs, which are the main food of fossus, decreases accordingly.
Animals are vulnerable to infectious diseases that are transmitted to them from domestic animals. Phossa population has decreased by 30% in a short period.
Fossa — the rarest animal on planet Earth and as «endangered» the view is listed in the & # 171; Red Book & # 187;. It is currently in «Vulnerable» status. This unique animal is protected from export and trade. Ecotourism representatives promote the survival of rare animals in Madagascar, including the fossa. They help local residents financially, encouraging them to conserve forests, and together with them to protect the most valuable fauna of our planet.