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Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) Fact Sheet, 2015   Tags: carnivore, fact sheet, fossa, madagascar, mammal, san diego zoo, sdzg  

Last Updated: Mar 3, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) Fact Sheet, 2015

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Feliformia

Family: Eupleridae

Genus: Cryptoprocta

Species: Cryprocta ferox (Bennet, 1833) - Fossa 

Body Weight
Male: 6.2-8.6 kg (13.7-19.0 lb)
Female: 5.5-6.8 kg (12.1-15.0 lb)

Head & body (male & female): 70-80 cm (2.3-2.6 ft)
Tail (male & female): 65-70 cm (2.1-2.3 ft)
Total length (male & female): c. 140 cm (4.6 ft)

Sepia brown or reddish-brown with underparts of a dirty cream color. Secretions from ventral glands give an orange appearance in males and juveniles.

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Madagascar, present only in small forest “islands” in the country’s interior.

Forest dwellers; found in rainforests, savoka (humid forests), montane forests, and spiny desert forests.  Most often found in intact forests but will Inhabit fragments in close proximity to an intact forest.

IUCN Status
Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1

CITES Appendix
Appendix II

Population in Wild
Estimated 2,635-8,262

Quadrupedal; equally comfortable on the ground and in the trees. They will leap from branch to branch and cover long distances on the ground.

Activity Cycle
Generally most active at night but also active in daylight. Daytime activity declines in the hours after dawn and even further at midday.

Social Groups
Females are solitary; males live alone or in small groups.

Lemurs often compose >50% of prey items.  Other prey include tenrec, rodents, snakes, birds, lizards, and amphibians.


Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity
c. 3-4 years of age

6-8 weeks generally observed.

Litter Size
2-4 cubs typical

Interbirth Interval
3-4 years (one estimate)

Birth Weight
c. 100 g (3.5 oz)

Age at Weaning
First leave the den after 4.5 months, weaning follows

19-20 years for both males and females in captivity.
No records for animals in the wild.

The fossa, Madagascar's largest native carnivore, resembles a small puma.  It has semi-retractile claws and carnassial teeth resembling those of a cat.  The fossa is quite agile; it quickly leaps from tree to tree and branch to branch, and even moves suspended below branches. The tail assists with balance and serves as a brake. The ankles on its hindfeet are “reversible,” enabling the fossa to both ascend and descend trunks head first.     

While the fossa is a very adept tree hunter and will track arboreal lemurs (its prey of choice) for long periods, it will also hunt and cover large distances on the ground.  


About This Fact Sheet

© 2015 San Diego Zoo Global. Updated August 2015.

How to cite: Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) Fact Sheet, 2015. c2015. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. 
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to



We wish to thank Mandi Krebs for providing expert content review of this fact sheet. Ms. Krebs began working with fossa in 2002 in preparation for opening the largest nocturnal exhibit in the world, Kingdoms of the Night at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. She created the first North American Regional Fossa Studbook in 2006 and is the AZA Fossa SSP Coordinator and Studbook Keeper.

She is currently the Interactive Animal Programs Manager at Omaha’s Zoo and still cares for the first fossa she ever met.

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