SINGAPORE - The Singapore Zoo's latest exhibit features a pair of fossas (pronounced foo-sas), an animal that many may draw comparisons to a cat, dog or mongoose.
Fans of the Madagascar animated movie may recognise the island's top predator as the main antagonists in the film, who were portrayed as ruthless and not very bright.
In real life, the animals are intelligent, graceful and well-deserving of the title of top predator, with lemurs being the animals' favourite prey.
A fossa has a cat-like head, short, dog-like muzzle and ears, as well as a slender body and muscular limbs.
It is also the only animal where the adolescent female undergoes a developmental stage known as transient masculinisation which temporarily makes her masculine.
The zoo's fossas are a nine-year-old male named Varus and a five-year-old female named Kabibi, said Wildlife Reserves Singapore in a statement on Friday (April 26).
The new fossa exhibit has been open to visitors since an April 1 soft launch.
WRS said that Varus is bold and inquisitive, always quick to investigate new sights and sounds, while Kabibi is more shy, and takes longer to warm up to her keepers.
Solitary animals by nature, the two fossas will share their new exhibit in the zoo on a rotational basis, added the park operator.
Visitors to the zoo will also be able to watch daily interactive sessions between the fossas and their caretakers as they conduct medical conditioning sessions that are part of the animals' healthcare.
The caretakers will get the fossas to touch a target on a stick and feed them when they successfully complete the action as a form of positive reinforcement conditioning.
"Conducting this training regularly allows the animal care team to get up close to the animal for medical check-ups and performing simple treatment procedures," said WRS in response to queries.
The fossa exhibit has features that aim to replicate the animals' natural habitat to improve their welfare and visitors' viewing experience.
The animals can manoeuvre around spring loaded branches that can sway under the weight of the fossas, replicating the way natural branches behave.
This will also help to enhances the fossas' sense of balance and muscularity.
The two fossas were brought to the zoo under the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Programmes, a breeding programme by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums of which the Singapore Zoo is a member.
Varus was brought to the Singapore Zoo on May 25, 2018, while Kabibi arrived on Sept 27, 2018. They were quarantined for one month and were then moved to dens until their exhibit was completed.
Varus was born in Zoo Duisburg in Germany, while Kabibi was born in the Reserve Zoologique de Calviac in France.
Under the programme, which aims to conserve healthy populations of animals under human care and maintain their genetic diversity, there are plans for the Singapore Zoo's fossa couple to bear baby fossas.
The fossa is classified as a vulnerable species in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, as it is under threat due to habitat loss and hunting.