Denver Zoo recently celebrated the birth of its very first Fossa (FOO-sah) pup!
Born on July 28th, the male Fossa pup, ‘Rico’, stayed behind the scenes for his first couple months, under the watchful, attentive eye of his mother, ‘Violet’.
Rico was born to Violet, and father, ‘Dorian’. Violet was born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in June 2010 and arrived at Denver Zoo in April 2012. Dorian was the very first Fossa to live at Denver Zoo, arriving in February 2010 from Utah’s Hogle Zoo. He was born at the San Diego Zoo in May 2006. The two were paired in early June when Violet was mature enough to breed. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Fossas almost resemble small mountain lions, but their closest relative is actually the mongoose. They have short, brown coats. Adults stand about 8 inches tall at the shoulder and can stretch about two-and-half feet 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 they may only weigh about 20 pounds, Fossas are the largest mammalian carnivore on Madagascar. Roughly half their diet consists of lemurs, but they also eat lizards, birds and smaller livestock. Fossas are cathemeral, meaning they are active and looking for prey at any part of the day or night, depending on mood and food availability.
The Fossa is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. However, with less than 2,500 estimated individuals in the wild, experts are uncertain about the future of the species, due to a lack of sightings. It is estimated, in the past 21 years, there has been a population reduction exceeding 30% and beyond. Their major threats come from habitat loss and hunting.