Fossa on the move!
Published: Apr 14, 2017Harry the fossa has left us for pastures new. His keeper Owen tells us all about his time here…
Harry was born at Africa Alive, Suffolk, back in June 2001. He came to Newquay Zoo in May 2003 along with a female called Mavis from Marwell Zoo in Hampshire. They were brought together by what’s known as a studbook (a dating agency for a particular species if you will). Things went well and Geoff was born; he went on to find his own girlfriend at Wroclaw Zoo in Poland. Now living on his own, Harry he has always been a very inquisitive and confident animal; he’s genuinely not intimidated by anything. Even when he took his vaccination jabs for his trip he didn’t bat an eyelid, I couldn’t have been prouder of him at that moment. You may see him asleep in his house (or possibly not if he’s on his top bunk!). He’s active and playful when I’m around and enjoys nothing more than rolling around on some dirty hoofstock bedding! You may have seen him pace on occasion, but this is usually Harry waiting in the area where he can see the keepers approaching with his meals and is known as food anticipation. His favourite foods are rabbit, red meat and occasionally a bit of quail. Now, for a bit of background info on his species. The species name is usually written fossa but in the Malagasy language it’s written fosa, so I will keep to that for the rest of this piece - it’s not a spelling mistake! There are only around 60 fosa in zoos in Europe at present, so not a lot. Fosa are the largest member of the eight species of carnivore endemic to Madagascar, with the fosa feeding mainly on dum dum duuuum…lemurs! Oops…
Fossa as a species
The species is solitary by nature, but come together in the breeding season. Unfortunately the film ‘Madagascar’ incorrectly portrays the species as very social and rather stupid - how rude?! Although appearing catlike and sharing certain physiological features with some other carnivores, all the carnivores from Madagascar are thought to have evolved from a species of mongoose millennia ago. The fosa is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with the main threats being habitat loss and persecution killings. Sometimes they’re even killed to be eaten, sadly.
The mating of fosa is quite a violent affair. In the wild a female will sit high in a tree on a branch that will only take her and her suitor’s weight; she can move further along it without being hassled if she doesn’t like him. The numerous males on the ground will squabble and fight between themselves until the winning male earns the right to mate with the female.
Harry is off...
This leads onto Harry’s reason for leaving the collection…. he’s off to get himself a girlfriend in the United Arab Emirates! Harry’s new partner is already out there and waiting to meet him. They will be kept separate until the breeding season, as they’re known to fight if kept together at other times, but when the day comes, Harry will get the chance to sire more offspring. We hope he’ll pass on his genes as he would do in the wild and aid the genetic diversity of fosa in captivity.
Although I am genuinely gutted to be losing such an amazing animal who I’ve got to know, build a bond with and work closely with nearly my entire career here at Newquay Zoo, I’m happy that he’s moving on to get a new girlfriend and to live out his days in the sun. Who knows, I might even get to go visit him in the future and meet his new girlfriend and potential young!
From all of us at Newquay Zoo good luck for the future Harry, we’ll miss you buddy.
Owen Taylor, Senior Carnivore Keeper