If you’ve seen the movie Madagascar, you might have heard of an animal called a fossa. The wacky and comical children’s movie is just about the only exposure to the vulnerable relative of the mongoose that most people have had. But the Catoctin Zoo in Maryland is trying the change that. One of only five zoos in the United States that has successfully bred and raised fossas, Catoctin is working hard to raise awareness about the threats to this adorable mammal native to Madagascar.
On June 17, the zoo welcomed three unbelievably cute baby fossas. Two of the pups will stay at the zoo, while the third will go on to another zoo as part of their breeding program. The two that remain at Catoctin are a male and a female. These pups are the second group that Catoctin has welcomed in the past 2 years. Unfortunately, just days after their birth, their mother rejected them and ceased to care for them, something that zookeepers say is common among this species. Luckily since they were in human care, the pups were able to be taken in by zoo staff and were hand raised. Keepers bottle fed them every two hours until they were weaned and made sure that they had all the same care that mom would give them.
Being one of the only places in America that keeps fossas, the zoo states they are conducting research on the animals to not only help advance their care in captivity, but to add to research being conducted in the wild as well. The pups finally were old and strong enough to go on display the first weekend of September, which is also when their birth was announced.
The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivore on the island of Madagascar. When fully grown, they resemble a cougar. The IUCN lists them as vulnerable due to the habitat fragmentation that is occurring on the island for the logging industry. Feral dogs may also be taking prey from fossas. They are also occasionally killed by farmers for attacking livestock and by hunters for use of their body parts for medicine. Thanks to places like the Catoctin Zoo, species like the fossa will not go unnoticed and the public will be aware of the threats to this important species.