Research Article: Retaliatory killing and human perceptions of Madagascar’s largest carnivore and livestock predator, the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox)

Date Published: March 15, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Samuel D. Merson, Luke J. Dollar, Paul J. Johnson, David W. Macdonald, Ulrike Gertrud Munderloh.


Fosas (Cryptoprocta ferox) are Madagascar’s largest carnivores, occupying much of the island’s forested landscape. This study provides the first evaluation of fosas’ conflict with humans, a problem for many small and medium sized carnivores worldwide. We examined fosas’ predation of poultry, and the subsequent retaliatory killing. Over 1750 households were interviewed across four regions, encompassing Madagascar’s major forest types (deciduous/rainforest) and protected area classifications (national park, reserve and unprotected forest). Predation by fosa was the third highest reported cause (15%) of poultry mortality, with little evidence that coops were effective in reducing predation. Predation of poultry was more prevalent in deciduous forests, and most common during the evenings of the dry season. Over half of all interviewees said they disliked fosas, with loss of poultry the most commonly stated reason. Respondents’ that had suffered poultry depredation and those with lower educational attainment were more likely to dislike fosas. Interviewees that disliked fosas and those that were wealthier were most likely to report having killed a fosa. A minimum of thirty fosas was killed in retaliation by our respondents during the year before the interviews. Given that the fosa population is in decline, and most of Madagascar’s forests are likely to be too small to support sustainable populations, these killings may be detrimental to vulnerable sub-populations. These results shed insight into the cultural perceptions and predation patterns of a medium sized carnivore, with relevance to worldwide human-wildlife conflict of often overlooked smaller carnivores. We suggest that educational programs, guard dogs, poultry disease vaccinations and robust coop construction may be effective for improving attitudes and reducing retaliatory killing.

Partial Text

Carnivore populations are in global decline, with human conflict and retaliatory killing a leading cause [1–4]. While larger carnivores may be particularly at risk, owing to larger home ranges, low population densities, and low fecundity [4, 5], conflict with carnivore populations is not limited to larger species. Across the globe many small to medium carnivores are also persecuted, most often for their predation upon domestic poultry [6, 7].

In total, 1746 households were interviewed (1325 male interviewees, 410 female interviewees, mean age 42.4 ± 13.3 and 38.8 ± 13.9) over six months from April–June 2014, and May–August 2015 (Table 1). 725 households were interviewed within and surrounding national parks, with 456 and 565 conducted within reserves and unprotected forests. Respondents were overwhelmingly farmers (77.5%). Most respondents’ highest level of educational attainment (Malagasy equivalent in brackets) was either primary school (EPP) (43.6%), or junior secondary (CEG) (24.6%). A substantial minority reported having no education (22.5%). Senior secondary (Lyceé publics) or tertiary (Université) education was not commonly reported (8.7% and 0.7% respectively).

Fosa predation was reported by interviewees to be one of the greatest causes of poultry mortality. Its occurrence was concentrated in the western forests, and most often recorded during the dry season in the evening. There was no evidence that poultry coops were effective in reducing fosa predation, likely owing to their poor construction. Most interviewees’ disliked fosas, with poultry predation the most commonly stated reason. Respondents who said they liked fosas commonly cited their endemicity, their impressiveness and their role as a rat predator. Interviewees that had suffered poultry depredation and those with less education were most likely to dislike fosas. Interviewees that disliked fosas and those that were wealthy were most likely to have killed a fosa. We estimated that a minimum of thirty fosas was killed in retaliation across our study regions during the year before interviews. Our results suggest that a strategy to reduce retaliatory killing should focus upon educating communities of fosas’ ecological importance, whilst promoting the construction of sustainably built, robust poultry coops, in align with the use of guard dogs. Vaccination programmes should also be considered within this strategy to reduce the economic cost of the greatest cause of poultry mortality, disease, and to reduce the risk of greater disease transmission if poultry are housed within coops.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.