Kids the world over know them as the villains of the “Madagascar” movie. But the 2-month-old fossa pups introduced Friday at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo looked anything but evil.
A universal “aawww” went up among zoo visitors who caught sight of the fossa brothers Friday as they saw grass for the first time.
They took tentative steps on the unfamiliar turf, screeching like loud kittens. But it took only minutes for the pair to discover how to climb the 2-foot-high wire fencing that had been placed around them — and then zookeepers had their work cut out for them trying to keep the pups in their pen.
The brothers are staying in the zoo's nursery for now because their mom isn't a very good mother, said Mandi Krebs, supervisor of the Desert Dome. The parent fossas — a 9-year-old mother, Kidogo (“sister” in Swahili), and 10-year-old father, Linus — came from Madagascar. This is their second litter.
The parents live in the Kingdoms of the Night under the Desert Dome, where they have separate enclosures because they don't get along.
Actually, Krebs said, fossas are solitary animals except in the spring when they want to breed. So mom's attitude isn't unusual.
However, Charlie and Red, another fossa pair (Red is the new pups' older sister), live together in an exhibit at Expedition Madagascar. They get along pretty well, Krebs said.
Krebs said fossas aren't as ridiculous as they were portrayed in the film, but “they are the top of the food chain” on the island of Madagascar. Half their diet consists of lemurs, she said.
People wince when she says that, Krebs said, but she explained that fossas are necessary for the island's environment. The island nation would be overrun with lemurs if there were no natural predators, she said.
The fossa pups weigh about 1½ pounds each and will grow to about 30 pounds as adults. Their long tails will grow to be 2 feet long, necessary to help them climb trees when chasing lemurs. Their ankles can rotate 180 degrees.
“They are built for climbing,” she said.
Although fossas resemble cats, they are members of the mongoose family. Fossas are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List for Endangered Species.
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