Falanouc (Eupleres goudotii)
|Also known as:||fanalouc, Malagasy mongoose, slender falanouc, small-toothed mongoose|
|French:||Euplère De Goudot|
|Spanish:||Fanaloca, Mangosta Dentipequeno|
|Size||Total length: 67 – 91 cm (2)|
Head-body length: 45 – 65 cm (2)
Tail length: 22 – 26 cm (2)
|Weight||2.5 – 4.5 kg (2)|
Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
This rare and secretive mammal, found only in Madagascar, has caused taxonomists problems for many years (4). While the falanouc is a carnivore, and in appearance resembles a mongoose, its conical teeth so strongly resemble those of insectivores it was once classed as one (5). Slightly larger than a domestic cat, the falanouc has a stocky body with a small, delicate head, large ears and elongated snout. Its fur is soft and dense and the longer hairs on the fat, cylindrical tail give it a rather bushy appearance. Two subspecies of the falanouc are recognised; the eastern falanouc (Eupleres goudotii goudotti) has light brown or fawn upperparts with russet spots and tinges around the thighs and pale grey-brown underparts. The western falanouc (Eupleres goudotii major), which may be 25 to 50 percent larger, has grey to rufous brown upperparts, with greyer fur on the head and tail. The forepaws and impressive claws of the falanouc are well developed for digging (2).
The falanouc is endemic to Madagascar. The eastern falanouc occurs from the Andohahela region in south-east corner of the island, to the Marojejy Massif in the north.
The western falanouc has a smaller distribution that ranges from the Tsaratanana Massif in the north-west, south to the northern limits of the Ankarafantsika area. Falanouc populations have also been found in the far north of the island but which of the two subspecies these populations represent has not yet been determined (2).
The eastern falanouc inhabits the dense, humid rainforests of eastern Madagascar, while the western falanouc is found in undisturbed areas of dry, deciduous forest found in the west. Falanouc have also been recorded in marshes (2).
The shy, secretive falanouc is a nocturnal and crepuscular animal, that is mainly solitary, although small groups have also been observed. They defend large territories, marking the area with scents secreted from glands around the anus and neck. Probably Madagascar’s most specialised carnivore, the falanouc feeds almost exclusively on earthworms and other small invertebrates. Its elongated snout and tiny conical teeth are well adapted to foraging in leaf litter for this specialised diet, and its muscular forepaws and long claws enable it to easily dig up their invertebrate prey. After a night feeding, the falanouc spends the daylight hours sleeping under logs or in rock crevices (2).
In July and August, courtship and mating takes place, resulting in females giving birth to a litter of one or two offspring after a three month gestation period (2) (5). The young are exceptionally well-developed and are born fully furred, with their eyes open, and weighing around 150 grams. At just two days old, the young are able to follow their mother as she searches for food, and at nine weeks the young are weaned (2).
In autumn, up to 800 grams of fat accumulates in the tail of the falanouc, a strategy to ensure its survival through the cooler, drier winter months of June and July, when food is scarce. It has been suggested that the falanouc may hibernate in the winter, although active falanouc have been observed during this time (5).
The impacts of a number of threats have resulted in a reduction in falanouc numbers and distribution (5). The most significant threat, and cause of these declines, is habitat destruction; deforestation has left little undisturbed forest in Madagascar and marshes are increasingly being drained. Predation by domestic dogs is also impacting populations, as is hunting, as the meat of the falanouc is highly desired by the local human population (6).
Despite these threats, the falanouc remains widespread in suitable habitat, although nowhere is it common (6). It occurs in a number of national parks including Ranomafana, Masoala, Mantadia, Verezanantsoro and Montagne d’Ambre (2). In 1989, the IUCN published a conservation action plan in which the IUCN/SSC Mustelid and Viverrid Specialist Group recommended a number of conservation actions for the falanouc. These included improvement of the protection of the reserves which have falanouc populations, a declaration of marshlands as conservation areas, and implementing complete, nationwide protection. The initiation of an internationally-coordinated captive breeding program was also recommended, but falanouc are very susceptible to stress, and thus difficult to maintain in captivity (6). The implementation of any of these measures, to ensure the survival of this unusual and endangered carnivore, is yet to be seen.
For further information on the falanouc see:
- EDGE of Existence:
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- Carnivore: flesh-eating.
- Crepuscular: active at dusk and/or dawn.
- Deciduous: a plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Hibernate: hibernation is a winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
- Insectivores: members of the order Insectivora, a group of small, primitive and typically nocturnal mammals that feed on insects.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone.
- IUCN/SSC: the IUCN Species Survival Commission: a network of volunteer experts working together towards achieving the vision of ‘A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity’.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- Taxonomists: scientists who classify organisms, grouping together animals which share common features and are thought to have a common ancestor.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)