Cryptoprocta ferox


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Cryptoprocta ferox
Species Authority: Bennett, 1833
Common Name/s:
English Fossa
French Foussa, Cryptoprocte Féroce
Spanish Gato Fossa De Madagascar

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Hawkins, A.F.A. & Dollar, L.
Reviewer/s: Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team) & Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority)
listed as Vulnerable as it is feasible that over the course of the last 21 years (three generations), there has been population reduction exceeding 30% (and possibly much higher) mainly due to habitat loss (given the species' need for intact forest) and in combination with widespread hunting and persecution and the effects of feral carnivores.
2000 Endangered
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Insufficiently Known (IUCN 1990)
1988 Insufficiently Known (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has a wide distribution in less disturbed forests of Madagascar. It is absent from areas where forests have been cleared (e.g. the central high plateau). It is found from sea level up to around 2,600 m asl on the Andringitra Massif (Hawkins 2003).
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The Fossa is generally a solitary species that is found at low population densities (Hawkins 2003). Density estimates for the Menabe region are 0.26 individuals/km² (Hawkins 1998), and for Ankarafantsika 0.20/km² (Rahajanirina 2003). In a recent estimate incorporating 25 protected areas large enough to support a (not necessarily viable) population, current population size is at <2,500 (Hawkins and Racey 2005). The maximum estimated population size for the largest protected area in Madagascar (Masoala National Park) is 414 breeding adults, and this is likely to be a substantial overestimate. Metapopulations of more than this may be possible, given the ability of this species to range between forest patches. Connectivity of populations between distant forest fragments is not yet conclusively known.

Densities for the eastern forests are hypothesized by some to be at one-third that of the west, based on phototrapping and cage trapping efforts throughout the humid forests (L. Dollar, unpubl.). Subjective encounter rate is much higher in western forests (particularly in Menabe, Bemaraha and Ankarana reserves) than in rainforests (F. Hawkins unpubl.), but densities could well be similar between dry and humid forests. This is an important point for future investigation. Important factors may include densities of lemur prey species, and levels of hunting.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is found both arboreal and terrestrial. It is found in all less disturbed forest types thoughout the island. Additionally, this species may be found above the treeline in montane areas (Goodman 1996). In general, it is not found outside of intact forest habitat, but it may pass through nonforest habitat as transient individuals. Its diet is known to include most animals in forests it inhabits, including lemurs to the size of Diademed Sifaka (bodyweight ~3 kg), rodents and reptiles (Rasolonandrasana 1994; S.M. Goodman and L. Dollar, unpubl.; F. Hawkins pers. comm.). Lemurs are frequently caught in trees. The gestation period is six to seven weeks after which between two and four young are born (Hawkins 2003); since infants remain with the mother for the first year, females only breed every other year. Sexual maturity is reached at three or four years of age (Hawkins 2003) and it is maximum known age in captivity is more than 20 years. It is active equally throughout the day and night (cathemeral), with periods of inactivity in the hottest and coldest parts of the day or night.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat to this species is loss and fragmentation of forest habitat, largely caused by the conversion of forested areas to agricultural land and pasture and selective logging. It also preys on domestic fowl and is consequently killed as a pest species by local people. It is very susceptible to hunting, and is often targeted by groups engaged in collective group hunting (e.g. in the Makira forests) specifically for the purpose of eradication. Parts of this species are also used for medicinal purposes. Competition with feral carnivores also occurs, including predation by feral dog packs.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. It is present in many protected areas throughout Madagascar (such as Kirindy Forest, and Ranomafana, Masaola, and Ankarafantsika National Parks). It is the subject of a successful ex situ captive breeding programme. Better protection of intact forests and awareness programmes concerning the value of this species for pest control are needed. This species is not currently protected adequately under national legislation, as there are conflicts within national legislation, as well as within and between local community laws.

Bibliography [top]

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, East Sussex, UK.

Hawkins, C. E. 1998. The behaviour and ecology of the fossa, Cryptoprocta ferox (Carnivora: Viverridae) in a dry deciduous forest in western Madagascar. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Aberdeen.

Hawkins, C. E. 2003. Cryptoprocta ferox, Fossa, Fosa. In: S. M. Goodman and J. P. Benstead (eds), The Natural History of Madagascar, pp. 1361-1363. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA and London, UK.

Hawkins, C. E. and Racey, P. A. 2005. Low population density of a tropical forest carnivore, Cryptoprocta ferox: Implications for protected area management. Oryx 39: 35-43.

Hornsey, T. 1999. Breeding the Fossa at Suffolk Wildlife Park. International Zoo News 46(7): 296.

Schreiber, A., Wirth, R., Riffel, M. and Van Rompaey, H. 1989. Weasels, civets, mongooses, and their relatives. An Action Plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Citation: Hawkins, A.F.A. & Dollar, L. 2008. Cryptoprocta ferox. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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