Rare Carnivore Spotted in Madagascar
Dr. Dollar’s team of researchers and Earthwatch volunteers spotted the western falanouc (Eupleres goudotii major), a subspecies of the falanouc (Eupleres goudotii), while carrying out fieldwork. Recently, this subspecies has been proposed to be considered as a species in its own right.
The unusual creature was spotted by an eagle-eyed Earthwatch volunteer who also managed to capture photographs of the animal. The observation is a rare occurrence at the Ampijoroa Forestry Station, Ankarafantsika National Park, western Madagascar, where Dr. Dollar leads research on the fosa, another little-known Madagascan carnivore.
“I believe the western falanouc is likely the most endangered small carnivore on Earth,” says Dr. Dollar. “Confirmation of its presence in this part of Ankarafantsika is particularly noteworthy...and an Earthwatcher spotted it on the trail first! Since the late ‘90s when I started working here, we have had fewer than five confirmed sightings or reports of falanouc, and only live-trapped an individual once. These are the first pictures we’ve ever gotten of one in the wild.”
He continues: “The fact that we have recently witnessed the falanouc, as well as the recovering populations of fosa that we have observed in the past few years, is testament to the success of the management and protection of the research area. Invasive domestic animals like dogs that used to compete with the fosa by preying on small animals like the falanouc and ground birds are under better management control and are actively monitored to keep this threat in check.”
The rare falanouc sighting also demonstrates the added value that Earthwatch volunteers bring to scientists’ work. Although not part of the core research, the likelihood of significant sightings such as this is hugely increased with the presence of many more pairs of vigilant eyes and ears on the ground.
The falanouc is vermivorous and insectivorous—it is thought to feed almost exclusively on invertebrates like earthworms and insects. It is slightly larger than a domestic cat. It has a stocky body with a small, delicate head, large ears, and elongated snout. Its fur is soft and dense and it stores fat in its long, thick tail—an unusual characteristic for a small carnivore. It is thought to engage in a form of hibernation for at least half the year, making sightings of it even more difficult and rare. The western falanouc subspecies may be 25 to 50 percent larger, and has a gray to red-brown body, with grayer fur on the head and tail.