Madagascar’s wildlife is definitely exotic, but we’re talking about non-native/introduced wildlife: species that live in areas they are not native to. The spread of exotics is causing trouble for native species worldwide. Dogs, cats, and rats are especially troublesome, because they are often fed/sheltered by humans.
There are many exotic species in Madagascar found in the forests. Honorary mentions to the black rat, zebu (domestic livestock), bush pig, and helmeted guineafowl.
Most of our research is on the exotic carnivores: the dogs, cats and small Indian civets. So we’ll focus our attention on them for this page.
Domestic dog (Canis familiaris)
Dogs all over the world are companion animals, and it’s no different in Madagascar. Malagasy use dogs as hunting assistants or companions on long, lonely treks through the forest. Many of the dogs are scrawny, spending a majority of their time in the forest looking for something to eat.
Dogs can have direct and indirect negative effects on native wildlife. They can attack and kill native wildlife, or spread diseases like canine distemper. When it comes to a competition between dogs and native carnivores, don’t bet on the natives. They usually lose.
In northeastern Madagascar, dogs are used to hunt fosa. Fosa, understandably, try to avoid humans and dogs by being more nocturnal. Falanouc, broad-striped vontsira and brown-tailed vontsira also avoid areas with high dog presence.
Cat (Felis spp.)
The cat situation in northeastern Madagascar is complicated (like many a Millenial’s relationship status, budm-tsh). There are the domestic cats (Felis catus), which might go feral and move to the forests. There might be introduced African wildcats (Felis silvestris). Finally, in northeastern Madagascar, there’s a large black cat, called the fitoaty (seven livers).
Pet, feral, wild or something else entirely…any type of cat spells major trouble for smaller native species. Cats are opportunistic hunters. Watch a fat pet cat stalk a bird (or, if you don’t have a cat, just check out The Oatmeal’s take on it). You know the movie schtick: killing for anything but hunger = automatic evil.
Cats in Madagascar have killed lemurs, and smaller native carnivores tend to avoid them. We’ve seen striped civet and ring-tailed vontsira presence decline in areas with high feral cat presence. More than likely, they are also preying on birds and small mammals.
Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica)
Looks like the native striped civet, huh? Just remember: striped civet has fox-like, pointed ears. The small Indian civet has round, Mickey Mouse-shaped ears. The small Indian civet is widespread across SE Asia. Nocturnal, they eat a wide variety of things, such as fruit, rodents and birds.
We’ve found that increases in small Indian civet activity = decreases in striped civet and broad-striped vontsira presence. Ring-tailed vontsiras weren’t even found in the same forests as small Indian civets.
Exotic Watch: Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)
Conservationists are now currently freaking out about the Asian common toad in Madagascar. The Asian common toad could cause an ecological mess in Madagascar. Essentially the introduced cane toad in Australia all over again. With an “anything-goes” appetite, it feeds on insects, small rodents, and other amphibians. With poisonous skin, any native predator who attempts to eat this toad will have signed up for its last meal. Luckily, it seems that researchers caught the invasion early. It might be that Madagascar’s endemic species can still be saved from the toad menace. Further research and monitoring must be done.
Further information on the Asian common toad in Madagascar here: