Fossa fossanaMalagasy civet

Geographic Range

The Malagasy Civet or Striped Civet (Fossa fossana) is native to and located throughout Madagascar only.


Fossa fossana is found throughout most of Madagascar, from humid lowland forests to dryer higher elevations.

Physical Description

Fossa fossana has a body length between 40 and 45 cm plus a tail that is 21 to 25 cm is length, with the female usually being longer. They weigh between 1.5 and 2 kg. with the male weighing more.

They have short, dense fur which is a brownish color and has 4 rows of dark spots running along the back. The ventral side is more lightly colored. The face resembles that of a fox, with a body about the size and shape of a house cat.

  • Range mass
    1.5 to 2 kg
    3.30 to 4.41 lb
  • Range length
    40 to 45 cm
    15.75 to 17.72 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    5.02262 W


Fossa fossana form pairs around the time of mating, and each pair may have a home range of about a square mile during the mating season.

Mating occurs during August and September with a single young being born after three months. The young have a full coat of fur, and their eyes are open at birth. They walk around day three, eat meat after a month, and are weaned at two to three months.

  • Breeding season
    August - September
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    3 months
  • Average gestation period
    82 days
  • Range weaning age
    2 to 3 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    728 days

The young stay with the parents until about one year of age, when they move on to find their own home ranges.


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    21.4 years


They store fat reserves in their tales for the winter, which can total up to about 25 percent of their total body weight.

Mating pairs mark they territory with scent. These scents are produced from anogenital, cheeck, and neck glands.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Fossa fossana eat small mammals including rodents and tenrecs. They also feed on reptiles, frogs, small birds, and invertebrates including freshwater crabs.

They forage on the ground and in low trees and brush, and are usually active at night.


Malagasy civets have very few natural predators as adults, but young animals may be eaten by snakes, birds, and other predators. They are also sometimes preyed upon by dogs that have been introduced to madagascar, and they are hunted by humans for food.

Fossa fossana uses camoflauge and the fact that it is nocturnal to avoid predators.

Ecosystem Roles

Fossa fossana fills the ecological niche most commonly filled by fox or cat like animals.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Striped Civet is beneficial to humans because it is hunted for food. It is also a popular attraction for tourists who can photograph it rather easily because it can be attracted to bait stations.

Conservation Status

The current listing is based on a suspected population decrease in a range larger or equal to 20% over the last 10 years, along with a decrease in the size and quality of the habitat. The decrease is furthered by trapping of the civets for food, and competition with the Small Indian Civet (Viverricula indica)

Other Comments

The Striped Civet is the second biggest Madagascar carnivore after the Fossa (C~ryptoprocta ferox~). Most likely, an early uncertainty in the differences of these two animals has been continued in the similarity of the Malagasy name for one and the scientific name of the other.

There used to be a larger species of Fossa that is now extinct.


Evan Hyatt (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Yale University Press.

Goodman, S. June 30, 1999. Carnivora of the Reserve Naturelle Integrale d'Andohahela, Madagascar. Fieldiana Zoology, 94: 259-268.

Parks, D. 1996-2001. "Madagascar: Biodiversity and Conservation" (On-line). Accessed 11-18-01 at

UNEP, W. 2001. "Fossa fossana" (On-line). Accessed 11-18-01 at Document URL:

Williams, G. 2001. "Fossa fossana" (On-line). Accessed 11-18-01 at