Yesterday, Denver Zoo announced the birth of Rico, the facility’s first fossa pup. Rico was born on Monday, July 28 to parents Violet and Dorian. Remaining behind-the-scenes for the past couple months, Violet has kept a watchful eye on her first pup. The zoo reports Violet is proving to be an excellent first-time mom.
Born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in June 2010, Violet arrived at Denver Zoo in April 2012. Denver Zoo’s first fossa inhabitant, Dorian, became a Mile High City resident in February 2010. Dorian was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2006 but came to Denver Zoo from Utah’s Hogle Zoo. Proving to be an excellent match, Dorian and Violent were paired in early June when she was mature enough to breed.
In the weeks since Rico was born, he’s been slowly improving his mobility skills. Steve Venne, Denver Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Carnivores, shared with the Animal News Examiner today, “[Rico’s] coordination seems to be increasing exponentially every day or two. Several days ago, he was just learning how to walk, and now he is already learning how to navigate into the higher areas of his space.”
Not only is the fossa pup getting better at moving around on his own, he’s also enjoying playing around. “Rico likes to do a variety of things, including playing with little round balls and other plastic toys designed to encourage his curiosity,” Venne comments, “There is a plastic tube that he really enjoys crawling inside and rolling around in.”
Rico is still nursing from Violet but Venne believes that could soon change, “He enjoys exploring and we saw him chomping on a bone today, with just a little meat, so he will probably start eating meat very soon.”
For any fan of the popular animated movie series Madagascar, you know the fossa as the “foosa,” dreaded enemy of the lemurs. The fossa is the largest mammalian carnivore of the African island nation, Madagascar. The movie got it right when it depicted the fossa’s diet as consisting of mostly lemurs. However, a fossa will also eat lizards, birds, and smaller livestock.
An individual fossa can grow up to 20 pounds and eight inches tall. However, they can stretch about two-and-half feet from head to backside and their tails can be just as long. This relatively long tail provides the fossa with the balance required to navigate through trees while hunting. While their teeth, jaws and partially retractable claws resemble those of a cat, experts describe their agility as almost primate-like. In fact, fossas can hang upside down and quickly climb to the tops of trees.The feline-like mammal is cathemeral, so depending on their mood and food availability, they’re active at any part of the day or night.
Currently, the fossas’ status in the wild is unknown. Once believed to be vulnerable with less than 2500 fossas in the wild, experts are now uncertain due to a lack of sightings. Habitat loss and hunting are the biggest threats to the world’s wild fossa population.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of Rico in one of the three indoor fossa areas of Denver Zoo’s Felines exhibit. While there is an outdoor area for the fossas, it will be at least 16 more weeks before the pup is allowed outside. Venne explains, “Just like dogs or cats at home, he [Rico] must first complete a series of vaccinations before he explores his outdoor habitat.”