Rare and endangered carnivore spotted on Earthwatch project in Madagascar
Earthwatch was excited to hear news via a recently submitted report from Carnivores of Madagascar scientist Dr Luke Dollar, of a sighting of an extremely rare carnivore endemic to Madagascar.
Rare sighting of a western falanouc (Eupleres goudotii major) by Earthwatch volunteer in Madagascar.
Dollar’s team of researchers and Earthwatch volunteers spotted the western falanouc (Eupleres goudotii major), a sub-species of the falanouc (Eupleres goudotii) whilst carrying out fieldwork. Recently, this sub-species has been proposed to be considered as a species in its own right (Goodman and Helgen, 2010).
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 in the Ampijoroa Forestry Station, Ankarafantsika National Park, Western Madagascar, where Dollar leads research into the fosa, another little-known Madagascan carnivore.
“I believe the western falanouc is likely the most endangered small carnivore on Earth”, says 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 sub-species may be 25 to 50 percent larger, and has a grey to red-brown body, with greyer fur on the head and tail.
To find out how you can get involved and help Dr Luke Dollar in his research, visit our Carnivores of Madagascar project page.