That animal you see here and in my first post is called a fosa (it has also been spelled fossa). It’s scientific name is Cryptoprocta ferox. It is the largest mammalian predator and top carnivore on Madagascar. We call these animals at the top of the food chain “keystone species” because they act to hold an ecosystem together, much like the keystone of a bridge. (Homework assignment for readers: find out why Pennsylvania is called “The Keystone State.” How does this relate to a “keystone species?”) Fosa help keep a higher level of diversity and (this is a good vocabulary term) species richness in the forests where they live. We only find fosa in healthy, little-disturbed forests and the fact we captured two in one day means great things for Ankarafantsika National Park.
That’s right, today was a very exciting day for us. We captured two
different fosa! Take a look at this picture of one in a tree. These captures were great events to us for several reasons. First, it
means there are still healthy populations of these important animals
here in the Park. That means that not only is there good conservation
management here, it means that these predators are in the forest also
keeping the system healthy.
Second, it means that animals we have
studied before are still around. One of the two animals we caught (a
female) is one we have known from two years ago. That means that animals
are able to maintain stable ranges in this area, which is very
important for their day-to-day and year-to-year existence. Can you think
of why this must be?
Third, the second fosa we caught was a new male.
He’s probably five years old and is very healthy. This is valuable
information to us, too. It means that there are still more animals we
haven’t found yet here in the park. This also tells us that the
population of fosa in Ankarafantsika is probably doing well. Maybe we’ll
catch this new one again next year! Why do you think it is good news to
find out that there are both old and new fosa here in our study area?
I’ll try to send pictures of us working on these fosa tomorrow. Also
tomorrow, I’m going to tell you about the wild cat we also caught today!
It’s been a great day here in Madagascar! I hope you have a good day,
Cool fosa facts:
1) They’re the top predator on the island of Madagascar.
2) Many experts call Madagascar the world’s top biodiversity
conservation priority, or “hotspot.” That’s because most species of
plants and animals here (almost 85% of them) are found nowehere else on
3) Fosa were once thought to be nocturnal, because people rarely saw
them. Fact is, they’re just very quiet, sneaky, and hard to spot. Also,
they’re not just nocturnal–they’re active almost equally both day and
4) Researchers used to think that fosa just eat lemurs. It turns out
that they can and do eat almost anything they come across in the forests
of Madagascar: birds, lizards, snakes, rodents, and other small mammals,
and, yes, lemurs, too.
5) The main threat to fosa populations in the wild comes not from other
forest animals, but from people. Madagascar has less than 10% of its
original forests left, because people cut it to clear land to grow food,
to sell the timber and precious woods, and to make room for new
settlements. This means that the fosa and the forests of Madagascar need
as much help and attention as we can give them, in order to make sure
we can preserve what’s left for the future!