Fossa – Shadow Work

Fossa illustration by Ravenari


Take responsibility. Responsibility. A long, hard look. Are you scapegoating, or are you the scapegoat? Have a clear idea of what is yours, and what isn’t. Be careful of avoidance. Is your life and mind in order? Hiding from your fears. Self-acceptance. Accept the whole of you. Shadow work. Self-confrontation. Using the truth to protect the whole of yourself.


The fossa (fosa in Malagasy) (Cryptoprocta ferox) is the largest carnivorous mammal found in Madagascar and has been described as being cat or civet-like. They are found at different altitudes, in all types of forest and rainforests, as well as the spiny forests. They are extremely adaptable predators. Fossas are largely solitary, though cooperative hunting for larger prey between male fossas have been observed. It is widespread, but its population is low. The fossa is adept at smelling, hearing and seeing. Illnesses are rare, and it is a robust, adaptable animal with a fierce and strong-minded temperament.

The males are larger than the females. They have semi-retractable claws, and flexible ankles that assist in climbing trees head-first in both directions. The soles of their paws are almost bare and covered with strong pads for grip. They also have semiplantigrade feet to switch between terrestrial and arboreal life. They are active hunters during the day and night (cathemeral), and take lemurs, tenrecs, birds, rodents, lizards, insects, crabs and other animals. They may eat fruit during dry seasons for water. When taking larger prey, they are known for their distinctive habit of eviscerating them. They have been known to take domestic prey.

Fossas tend to mate on trees, and mating can last hours and then be repeated over the course of a day. There are often preferred trees for this activity, the same used year after year, often down to the same date. Many males will congregate around a female, who chooses one or several to mate with. They will generally birth one to six altricial pups, who take 4.5 months to wean and take a year to reach independence. They become sexually mature at 3-4 years of age. They live for around 20 years in captivity. Females with young will often have a den, but as adults otherwise, they do not like to sleep in the same places at night.

They have multiple scent glands which secrete strong odours in both sexes, though they are more well-developed in the males. The male fossa has an unusually long penis and baculum, female fossas have hyena-like genitalia when they are younger, experiencing transient masculinisation that makes their clitoris resemble a penis. It’s possible this prevents males from harassing them while they are growing into sexual maturity, or prevents female-female aggression. Fossas communicate with vocalisations like purring, as well calls that may attract other fossas, or indicate threat, fear. They also communicate with visual signals and scents. The scent-marks they leave on the ground, rocks and trees lasts a long time. Fossas only tend to be aggressive during mating, especially amongst males.

In Madagascar, distinctions are made between a large black fossa, the standard reddish fossa, and a white fossa. To this day, it’s unknown if these refer to real fossa, differentiated species, or fossa in folklore. Due to being largely feared and hated by the Malagasy, who consider the animal a taboo species, it is protected rather than hunted, though there are incidents of fossas being hunted due to hatred. It’s greatest threat is habitat destruction.