Carnivores are an integral part of nature. They keep prey populations in check. They provide carcasses for scavengers. And, let’s not kid around: they are all that, and an extra-sized bag of chips. Unfortunately, humans loooove to hate them some carnivores. Carnivores worldwide are threatened with extinction.
Out of many little-known carnivores, Madagascar’s carnivores are the least-studied. All ten members of the endemic family Eupleridae found only in Madagascar. Of those ten, northeastern Madagascar is home to six species. Check them out below!
Fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox): Vulnerable (VU)
Fosa are the largest native Malagasy carnivore, and no, they aren’t cats. They have semi-retractable claws and a long tail that helps with their tree-loving lifestyle. Active both day and night, nothing is safe from a hunting fosa. The fosa can kill lemurs almost as big as itself with a bite to the skull or neck. Found in all forest types, the fosa is uncommon, usually solitary and requiring lots of land to roam.
Every year, males and females return to sites—usually trees—to breed. The fosa reaches sexual maturity after 3-4 years of age and only has 2-4 cubs every other year. Enormous hunting pressure exerted by locals and negative interactions with dogs threaten fosa populations. There are less than 2,500 fosa left in the world and the protected areas in northeastern Madagascar might be their last stronghold.
Striped Civet (Fossa fossana): Near Threatened (NT)
Fox-like and nocturnal, the striped civet—or fanaloka—is found only in the eastern rainforests. Limited to forest with little disturbance, the striped civet can be common. Mated pairs defend their territory and spend the days resting in logs, hollow trees and rock crevasses. At night, they forage for small mammals, insects, birds and amphibians.
Breeding season occurs in August-September. A single, well-developed offspring being born after a few months. Like the fosa, it is hunted, with its meat being favored among locals. Hunting, habitat loss and negative interactions with exotic dogs and cats can lead to population declines.
Falanouc (Eupleres goudotii): Near Threatened (NT)
The falanouc is the oddity in an already odd carnivore family. It is about the size of the striped civet, and, like the civet, can store fat in its tail for the lean winter months. That’s where the similarities end.
A brown, fluffy tank with sharp, sturdy claws, falanouc are found in disturbed and undisturbed forest. They are usually solitary, and, although mainly active at night, they can be seen during the day. Insects and earthworms are its main fare.
Offspring are born able to follow their mothers on foraging trips after two days. Like the fosa and striped civet, it is hunted and can interact negatively with exotics.
Ring-tailed vontsira (Galidia elegans): Least Concern (LC)
The most common Malagasy carnivore, the ring-tailed vontsira is almost never active at night. A social animal, it can be found in pairs and small family groups. It dines on birds, insects, amphibians, small mammals, fruit, and the occasional small lemur.
Ring-tailed vontsiras are playful, curious, and have a predilection for scavenging from human camps. They enjoy climbing on trees and are also adept swimmers. The mating season results in one offspring, which looks like a mini-adult. Habitat loss, hunting and exotics threaten the largest of the vontsiras.
Broad-striped vontsira (Galidictis fasciata): Near Threatened (NT)
We know little about the vontsira fotsy, or ‘white vontsira’. Active at night, it is usually found in undisturbed forest but rarely detected. This vontsira is usually seen foraging in pairs. It might eat small vertebrates like rodents and mouse lemurs.
Females give birth in June-September to one baby. This youngster might stay with its parents until it reaches maturity in 2 years. Threats to this species are habitat loss and negative interactions with exotic species. Locals might also hunt the vontsira fotsy.
Brown-tailed vontsira (Salanoia concolor): Vulnerable (VU)
This vontsira is only found in northeastern Madagascar. The brown-tailed vontsira’s known range was extended thanks to our camera trap studies.
Uncommon, active during the day, and typically found in pairs, we don’t know a lot about this carnivore. This vontsira was only detected at two sites during our 5 years of surveys. They might eat small vertebrates and invertebrates, and have 1 offspring a year.
Sensitive to habitat disturbance, habitat degradation might be the cause of its decline. Interactions with exotic dogs and cats might also have negative effects on the brown-tailed vontsira.