Striped civet (Fossa fossana)

Also known as: fanaloka, Malagasy civet
French: Civette Fossane, Civette Malgache, Fossana
Spanish: Cibeta De Madagascar
GenusFossa (1)
SizeTotal length: 610-700 mm (2)
Head-body length: 400-450 mm (2)
Tail length: 210-250 mm (2)
Male weight: up to 2.0 kg (2)
Female weight: up to 1.5 kg (2)

The striped civet is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1). Listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The striped civet (Fossa fossana) is a Malagasy civet, which is sufficiently different to the civets found on mainland Africa that it is placed in a unique subfamily, the Eupleninae, along with another Madagascan civet, the fanalouc (Eupleres goudotii) (2). The striped civet is the only member of the genus Fossa, and is about the size of a domestic cat, with a stocky body, short, thin legs and a fox-like pointed muzzle. The short, dense coat is light brown with grey around the head and on the back (4) (2). There are four rows of dark spots along the flanks (4), which can blend to form short stripes; the thighs may also feature a few dark spots. The underparts do not tend to have markings, and are pale cream or white in colour (2). Vocalisations include a range of cries and groans, as well as a typical ‘coq-coq’, which is only produced when in the presence of more than one individual (5).

Endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs throughout the moist rainforest areas of the north and east. The striped civet has also been found in isolated humid forests of Montagne d’Ambre and the deciduous forests in the Ankarana Massif in the far north of the island (2).

Found in evergreen forests where the striped civet takes shelter in crevices and hollow trees (5).

The striped civet is a shy, nocturnal species that hunts for small tenrecs (shrew-like insectivores), rodents, birds, frogs, reptiles and invertebrates on the forest floor and low down in the trees (2). Occasionally fruit may also be taken (5). They spend the day sleeping in hollow trees, fallen logs, or inside crevices in rocks (2). They are able to store fat reserves, particularly in the tail, in preparation for the winter (June to August), when food sources are scarce (2).

Males and females form pairs that defend a large shared territory, marking the boundaries with scent produced by glands around the anus and the cheeks (4). Mating occurs in August and September and after a gestation period of three months, a single young is born. The young is well developed at birth, with open eyes and a covering of fur. Although they are able to walk as soon as three days after birth, their subsequent development is relatively slow. They are fully weaned at two or three months, and leave their parents’ territory at around one year of age (2).

The striped civet is threatened by the large-scale deforestation that has occurred on Madagascar (4). Since humans arrived on Madagascar, between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, around 80 percent of the original tree cover has been destroyed (2). Additional threats facing the species include trapping for food and competition with the introduced small Indian civet (Viverricula indica) (6).

This species is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List and is listed under appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1) (3). The striped civet occurs within a number of reserves in Madagascar, including Masoala and Montagne d’Ambre National Park, the Mananara-Nord Biosphere Reserve, and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve (2). Hopes are that conservation projects tied to the development of local communities are the way forward for the conservation of Madagascar’s staggeringly rich and unique biological resources (2).

Find out more about the striped civet:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  3. CITES (March, 2004)
  4. Lioncrusher’s Domain (March, 2004)
  5. Walker’s Mammals of the World On-line (March, 2004)
  6. Animal Diversity Web (March, 2004)