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Fosa: Madagascar's  Legendary Carnivore

National Geographic's Dr. Luke Dollar at Naples Zoo

Most people have never even heard of a fosa, let alone see one. And with only about 60 of them in the country you can undersand why. See these rare predators at The Fosa: Madagascar’s Legendary Carnivore exhibit. The fosa (formerly spelled fossa) is the island nation’s largest mammalian predator and is so quick in the trees that about half of its diet is lemurs. Guests are able to see these rare species through glass viewing windows.  The fascinating world of the fosa is revealed through fun guess-the-answer flip panels and interpretive graphics.

The exhibit features themed naturalistic rockwork replicating the striking tsingy limestone formations seen in Madagascar. The tsingy rock surrounds the glass viewing areas for guests to get clear views. As agile as squirrels in a tree, the fosas can jump to natural oak trees and vertical poles, run along an elevated catwalk, play on the ropes, and climb through custom structures.

The Zoo’s Director of Conservation reviewed the exhibit plans with Dr. Luke Dollar, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and world’s leading fosa researcher (see video at left below.). Dr. Luke Dollar was instrumental in supplying the latest data for the interpretive graphic panels as well as photos from the field. With coordination by Dr. Dollar, Naples Zoo is funding educational items to help save fosas as well as rocket stoves to reduce deforestation in Madagascar (see video at right below). He was also a guest speaker at a Naples Zoo fundraiser hosted at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and the public premier when baby fosas were born.

The fosa looks like a dark brown, short-legged cougar, albeit much smaller and stretched out. Fosas weigh around 15 to 26 pounds or more and measure around 5 ½ feet long. Fosas live in forests ringing the coast of the island. Like Madagascar’s more popularly known lemurs, fosas are endemic to Madagascar meaning they can be found nowhere else. This also describes about 90% of the island’s mammals and plants along with over 95% of its reptiles and over 99% of its amphibians.   The diverse life on Madagascar resulted from over 160 million years of isolation from both mainland Africa and people who only arrived about 2,000 years ago.

The Fosa: Madagascar’s Legendary Carnivore exhibit was made possible through a generous donation by the Halverstadt Family.  Naples Zoo wishes to honor Connie H. Miller, Linda H. MacDuffie, and Albert N. Halverstadt Jr. for their contribution to the creation of this exhibit. Their support will further efforts to help this endangered species. .

The breeding of this rare species is overseen by a Population Management Plan coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Resembling a giant computer dating service, various AZA programs track the ancestry of animals and make recommendations for breeding to maintain genetic diversity.

Their common name is also undergoing the unusual process of being changed from “fossa” to “fosa” to reduce confusion with another Malagasy carnivore, the fanaloka whose scientific name is Fossa fossana. What’s more, the scientific classification of fosas along with all the other Malagasy carnivores has been a frequent topic of debate but has now been decided. Fosas have variously been included in the viverrid family with civets, the herpestid family with mongooses, and the felid family with cats. Genetic work now places them in their own unique family Eupleridae.

Fosa Exhibit
Native Malagasy plants including Ravenala and Euphorbia surround the exhibit.

Dr. Luke Dollar and Lemur
A youthful Dr. Luke Dollar and a brown lemur in Madagascar.

Fosa Exhibit
Tsingy rockwork and interpretive graphics surround the glass viewing areas. Interactive flip panels allow you to test your knowledge of fosas and Madagascar.


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