In northeastern Madagascar, within a changing landscape, apex predators fight for food, space, power. In one particular section of the rainforest, family, tradition, ambition, and a fierce love for home will be threatened by outside dangers.
This is…Fosa Forest.
“Menabe!” A discordant note vibrated through the soft night harmony of frogs and lemur calls. Someone was calling his name, their paws thudding against the damp ground, the undergrowth rustling with their passing. Menabe raised his head from the tree he was sniffing, his ears swiveling forward. “Menabe!”
Hinjitra? No. His brother1 moved like the morning mist through undergrowth. Besides, Hinjitra would never call for him with such desperation. In fact, it sounded like…
Adala barreled into the small opening created by the widened trail, his ears held as high as they could go. He halted when he caught sight of Menabe, who stood, one ear forward, one swiveled half back.
“Menabe.” Adala’s ears went back slightly, and he took a stumbling step back. Then, after a brief pause, words tumbled from his mouth. “It’s important, Menabe, you know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t, I wasn’t even really in your territory when I saw it2, and then I knew I had to tell someone…”
Menabe hid an annoyed ear twitch by sitting down and scratching at his neck, dislodging a leech. For Adala, the tiniest things became newsworthy. Menabe remembered one season when it had rained every day for a moon. Adala had been certain that the rain would never stop, they would all drown, and had spent most of his time living exclusively in the tree tops. “What is it, Adala?”
“Something new in the forest,” Adala’s ears popped back up.
“We already know about the white not-lemur.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s a light-spitting rock growing on a tree!”
Menabe paused in his grooming. “What?”
“I was just walking along a trail, marking, when there was a sudden burst of light, like when the sky growls. I sniffed about and found this rock. I mean, I think it was a rock, it didn’t smell anything like any rock I’ve ever smelled, but it’s the closest thing I can think of, and it was on a tree. And the strange thing is, I had just marked that tree the night before, and the rock was not there! And while I was sniffing, it spit light again. I tried to take it off the tree, but I couldn’t, it’s stuck on there…”
Menabe listened intently, his ears forward. The not-lemurs brought many strange things with them into the forest, but this light-spitting rock was the strangest yet. He and Hinjitra would have to investigate.
“…it tastes nothing like a rock, either, it felt almost as if, if I chewed on it enough, I could…”
“If all it does is spit light, then it should be no danger,” Menabe said. “After all, any smart animal would have attacked you or tried to run away after you chewed on it.”
“Uh, right,” Adala said, snorting in agreement.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” Menabe said, standing up.
“You’re welcome,” Adala said, his tail lifting in a friendly fashion. “After I had tried to get it off the tree, I just thought that it would be best to make sure everyone knew about it, just in case it was dangerous, and you were the first one I could think of to tell…”
“Good night, Adala,” Menabe said, returning to his tree-sniffing. Adala waited a moment, and then turned and blundered back into the darkness.
“Nenibe. You and I both know that you’re getting older,” Soa said as she licked her paw. “Can you really take care of another litter of pups?”
The sun was warm on Soa’s back and she half-closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of heat melting through her fur and into her skin. Bird song wafted through the air, a counterpoint to the far-traveling snarls of the red lemurs across the mountain. Her two sons were newly independent, the season of plenty was coming, and she had eaten well last night.
Things were good. They would be even better if the old female would just cooperate.
Her mother’s mother sat on a stone on the other side of the sunlit clearing, her faded muzzle and tail twitching. “I could take care of another litter,” Nenibe said. “I am still in my prime, and have yet to lose a pup. Unlike you, dear.”
Soa forced her tail to stay still, but she couldn’t help her ears going back ever-so slightly. “Indeed? Well, it does depend on whether any of the males choose you as a mate.” Soa looked up at the sound of a brown lemur calling. “I suppose Adala would suffer you as the mother of his pups,” Soa continued, searching the trees for the lemur. “I know Menabe or Hinjitra won’t, not with younger, healthier choices around…”
“Ah, you mean the new female to the sun’s rising?”
Soa’s eyes snapped back to Nenibe, her throat vibrating with a soft growl. There had been the scent of a new female on the edges of her territory, but it had been faint. She had hoped that the female was just passing through3.
“…a good territory filled with prey, and the female smelled particularly young, perhaps just out of the change4. She’ll be quite attractive to the males in a moon’s time at Tree-Gathering.” Now it was Nenibe’s turn to lick her paw. “Why don’t you worry about expanding your territory that way, Soakely, instead of intruding on mine? If you work hard enough, you might stay the queen of this forest. At least for the next two seasons of plenty.”
Soa vigorously licked down her ruffled fur at the sound of her pup-name. Separated by space and years, the two females sat without speaking in the clearing. Nenibe’s territory was one of the best, despite the not-lemurs, filled with pools of clear water to drink, brown lemurs to eat, and rocky caverns in which to hide. Meanwhile, Soa had a strenuous climb up the mountain to make it to any sort of safe den! Besides, Nenibe was getting old. She had seen ten seasons. She should accept her aging gracefully, stop breeding, and shrink her territory accordingly.
As her daughter’s daughter, Soa deserved Nenibe’s territory. And she was going to get it.
Feeling calmer at that resolution, Soa stopped grooming. “I suppose we’ll see what happens at Tree-Gathering5. It should be interesting.”
“Yes, very. Are we finished here, Soakely?”
“Yes.” For now.
“Lozakely…what are we going to do?”
“We’re going to rule this forest, Joko. That’s what we’re going to do. And stop calling me Lozakely; we’re on our own now, we’re not pups anymore.”
“Okay, Loza.” The name felt weird in Joko’s mouth, but his brother was right. They weren’t pups any more. Their mother had kicked them out a few sunrises ago, saying that very thing. “But, I mean, what are we going to do for food?”
Loza, was crouching, about to pounce on a leaf rustling in the twilight breeze. “We’re going to hunt, of course.”
“But what? And where? And how?”
That made Loza pause. His ears swiveled as he took in the sounds of the coming night, the frogs beginning to sing, the birds croaking their lullabies. “We’ll search along high trail and find a lemur. Don’t you remember how Mama told us to hunt them? We’ll get one of the big ones. That way we won’t have to hunt for a few days.”
Joko remembered, perhaps better than Loza did. Mama had had to cuff Loza many times when she started taking them hunting with her, commanding him to pay attention. Lemurs were the hardest to kill6, she’d said; young fosa were better off spending their energy digging out fat, sleeping tenrecs7.
Joko’s stomach growled at the idea of gorging on lemur meat. Mama had said that the closer it was to the season of plenty, the thinner the sleeping tenrecs would be.
“C’mon, Joko, we can do it!” Loza jumped on Joko in his excitement and they wrestled for a bit. When Joko had submitted, Loza licked at his brother’s face. “It’ll be easy. Wouldn’t it be great if we got one of those large white ones?”
“The white lemurs don’t live around high trail.”
“They could go up there tonight.”
Loza’s confidence and excitement, as always, infected Joko. Yes, it was almost certain that they could catch a tenrec tonight with a little digging. But that certainty paled in comparison to the slim chance of getting one of the rare white lemurs. How awesome it would be for their first hunt to end in such a kill.
Besides, if they caught a lemur, they wouldn’t have to hunt for days. Meanwhile, they’d have to dig all night for tenrecs. It really was much smarter to go for the lemur.
“Okay, Loza, let’s do it.”
After another brief bout of wrestling, and then the two brothers began down the path, sniffing their way by familiar landmarks.
The darkness deepened, with the hooting of smaller lemurs occasionally punctuating the frog and bird chorus.
“You remember how to do it?” Loza whispered, stumbling slightly over a raised tree root.
“Yes, do you?” When Loza didn’t answer, Joko prompted him. “Smell out the lemur; they’ll be sleeping now, probably in one of the bigger trees…”
“Sneak up on it; use the leaves as cover, but be careful not to make noise, and come from downwind…”
“Try to force it away from the tree trunk, towards the thinner branches that can’t hold its weight…”
“Both of us attacking from different directions…”
“Tire it out, and keep it towards the thinner branches, so eventually it’ll fall.” Joko’s mouth watered and his stomach rumbled. “Then, a strong, sharp bite to the neck, and…”
They were close to the start of high trail, close to food. Joko’s ears flattened against his skull in anger at the delay. Loza, unconcerned by Joko’s ears, began to sniff at a tree. He turned with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Sniff this.”
Joko’s ears crept back up as he went to the tree and sniffed it. He looked at Loza. “Menabe and Hinjitra. So what?”
“Nothing. Except we’re adults now…close enough!” Loza added at Joko’s skeptical ear twitch. “Don’t you think we should share that information with the other males?”
“We’re not pups anymore, Joko. We need our own territory. It’s time for us to start marking.”
Joko didn’t mention that they were still well within the core of their mother’s territory. “What if they get angry at us?”
“We’ll handle it,” Loza said. “Who can go against us?”
“Have you seen Menabe and Hinjitra?”
Loza wasn’t listening. He grabbed the tree between his forepaws and pressed his chest against the bark, rubbing to leave his scent8. “C’mon, now you, too.”
Joko sighed and grabbed the tree. He gave it a brief grazing and then turned to his brother. “There. We marked. Now can we get back to hunting? I’m starving.”
Loza nodded, his tail high with pride. “Our first night of marking, our first lemur hunt. Joko, we’ll remember this night as the night it all started, once we’re kings of this forest.”
Will Loza and Joko find enough food to last the next few days?
Will Soa continue her reign as the queen of the forest or will the new, mystery female steal her thunder?
Will Nenibe be able to guard her territory from her rapacious granddaughter?
And what new drama shall occur as the season of plenty begins and Tree-Gathering commences? Stay tuned for the next episode of… Fosa Forest!