Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of its very first fossa pup, born on July 28. The male pup, named Rico, has stayed behind the scenes for the last couple months under the watchful eye of his mother, who is proving to be an excellent first-time mom. Rico is now slowly gaining more mobility, though, and zookeepers just removed the boards in front of their indoor habitat. Guests may see him as he attempts to leave his nest box inside the Zoo’s Feline Building, though fossas are not felines.
The pup’s mother, Violet, was born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in June 2010 and arrived at Denver Zoo in April 2012. Its father, Dorian, was the very first fossa to live at Denver Zoo, arriving in February 2010 from Utah’s Hogle Zoo, but born at the San Diego Zoo in 2006. The two were paired in early June this year when Violet was mature enough to breed. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Fossas almost resemble small pumas, but their closest relative is actually the mongoose. They have short, brown coats. Adults stand about 20 centimetres tall at the shoulder and can stretch about 0.75 metres from head to backside. Their tails can be just as long and provide good balance when navigating though trees while hunting for prey. Their teeth, jaws and partially retractable claws resemble those of a cat, but their agility has been described as almost primate-like. They can hang upside down and quickly climb to the top of a tree.
Even though it may only weigh about 10 kg, the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is the largest mammalian carnivore on Madagascar. Roughly half its diet consists of lemurs, but fossas also eat lizards, birds and smaller livestock. Fossas are , meaning they are active and looking for prey at any part of the day or night, depending on mood and food availability.
Video with concise information about the fossa:
(Source: World Press Media YouTube channel)
Fossas are only to be found in Madagascar. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ the fossa’s conservation status in the wild is Vulnerable with an estimated population size of less than 2,500 individuals. Experts are uncertain about this number due to a lack of sightings, mainly caused by the fossa being a solitary species in general that is found at low population densities. Their major threats come from habitat loss and hunting which may have led to a population reduction exceeding 30% (and possibly much higher) over the course of the last 21 years (three generations).
(Source: Denver Zoo press release, 25.09.2014; IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™)