The fossa is Madagascar’s top dog. Not that it’s actually a dog, of course, because Madagascar doesn’t have any wild dogs. Nor does it have any wild cats, bears, badgers, weasels or raccoons. In their absence, the top predator on the island is an elusive, medium-sized brown animal that looks a bit like a cross between an elongated puma and a giant otter.
There are more than 110 different species of lemur alive on Madagascar today and they encompass a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and behaviours. At one extreme is the tiny Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur. At a mere 92 mm in length and weighing just 31 grams, it is not only the smallest lemur in the world (it can sit, quite comfortably, in an egg cup) but it’s also the smallest primate.
Most islands are rich in unique species of animals and plants that are found nowhere else in the world. New Zealand, for example, is home to the kiwi, the kākāpō, and the takahē, along with many other rare flightless birds, while Madagascar is famous for its lemurs, fossas, and tenrecs. The British Isles, by comparison, has very few animals that it can exclusively call its own.
You’ve probably heard of the Tasmanian devil. It’s a noisy, aggressive creature that is sometimes seen spinning around in cartoons. It also has the distinction of being the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. But a century ago, the Tasmanian devil didn’t hold that title – it was beaten in size by another Tasmanian resident, the thylacine.