University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Studying the Effects of Predatory Presence and Enrichment on Cryptoprocta ferox Behavior
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The fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is the largest extant carnivore native to Madagascar (Veron et al. 2018). Madagascar is adjacent to the continent of Africa on its southwest coast. The island is known for its significant amount of endemic species that contribute to its biodiversity and ecotourism (Robinson et al. 2018). Madagascar has experienced deforestation and introduction of invasive species, including the feral dog (Canis familiaris), the feral cat (Felis catus), and the Indian Civet (Viverricula indica) (Cartagena–Matos et al. 2017). These invasive carnivores threaten C. ferox by introducing diseases, such as canine distemper and canine parvovirus (Rasambainarivo et al. 2017). C. ferox is also selectively hunted for bushmeat and is considered vermin among the local population (Rasambainarivo et al., 2017). C. ferox is a member of the family Eupleridae, the Malagasy Mongooses, and have evolved to hunt lemurs and other primates (Dollar et al. 2006). More than fifty percent of their diet is composed of different species of lemur. Their diet also includes species of small mammals, ground birds, and reptiles (Hawkins and Racey, 2008). Their presence on the island allows them to keep prey species numbers under control. The conservation of this species is imperative to maintaining the ecosystem.

C. ferox become sexually mature after four years (A-Z, 2017). The mating behaviors of C. ferox are polyandrous; the female will mate with several males (Luehrs and Kappeler, 2014). The female will select a tree to display to other males by vocalizing. The males will then compete at the base of the tree to mate; the larger, older males are usually more successful (Luehrs and Kappeler, 2014). A male will mount the female on a limb of the tree and intercourse will last approximately two hours (Luehrs and Kappeler, 2014). Females will continue to mate, often with the same males. The male C. ferox possess a baculum and a barbed penis which assist in securely holding onto the female during mating (Luehrs and Kappeler, 2014). Juvenile female C. ferox will possess a large clitoral bone, and it will decrease in size as they mature (Hawkins, 1998). The os clitoris may reduce sexual harassment of juvenile females by older females and males (Hawkins, 1998). C. ferox mate from August to December and give birth to one to four pups a year (Vogler et al., 2009). Gestation lasts for approximately 53-60 days (Vogler et al. 2009). The pups are born blind and lacking teeth. After approximately 16 weeks they are weaned, and at two years the pups become completely independent (A-Z, 2017).

This study took place at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford, Florida. The duration of the study was from August 27, 2018, through November 21, 2018. The subject was a female fossa referred to as “Shelby” by her keepers. Shelby was eight years old and had not been previously bred. Housed to the left of the female was the male C. ferox, referred to as Malala. To the right of Shelby’s enclosure was the exhibit of two ring-tailed lemurs. Beginning in January of 2019, the staff prepared to breed the two fossas to contribute to conservation efforts. In October of 2018, an amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) was introduced into an enclosure on the other side of the guests’ path (after the absence of a melanistic leopard, staff moved the previous melanistic leopard due to age and declining health.) This enclosure was approximately 4.5 meters from the female's C. ferox enclosure. The staff was curious about Shelby’s well-being and if she would be receptive to breeding the following year. P. p. orientalis is not a natural predator of C. ferox, but the introduction of a new predator to the area was expected to change the behavior of all species nearby. Shelby also expressed stereotypic pacing behavior, including an action called a "head roll" (Central Florida Zoo, Fall 2018). It is described as an anticipation behavior by staff and involves the female going into a corner of the enclosure, rolling her head, and pushing off to run to the other side. An anticipation behavior is used to describe any behavior that occurs consistently before a reinforcing event, such as a changing of enrichment or food. Enrichment was provided daily and has been shown to reduce the amount of pacing in individuals. This study will identify the effects of P. p. orientalis’s presence on the female's behavior and the impact of different types of enrichment on stereotypic pacing.

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