Leaping Lemurs, Climbing Fossas and a Curious Honey Badger Explore Their New Digs at the San Diego Zoo’s New Madagascar Forest Habitat

Five ring-tailed lemurs, five fossas (pronounced foo-sas) and one honey badger (or ratel) explored their new homes at the just-opened Madagascar Forest habitat in the new Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks at the San Diego Zoo, earlier today (Friday, Sept. 1, 2017). After coming onto the exhibit from their behind-the-scenes bedrooms, the sociable troop of one male and four female ring-tailed lemurs jumped on rocks and climbed trees, and even sunbathed for a while—one of the lemurs’ favorite pastimes.

Across the pathway from the lemur habit, a mother fossa and her 12-week-old pups—one male and three females—jumped over grass, climbed on rocks and also played in trees; while a honey badger in an adjoining habitat scampered around, checking out every inch of her new digs.

These unique animals moved into the Madagascar Forest habitat at Africa Rocks today, where they are now viewable by Zoo guests. Madagascar Forest in Africa Rocks represents flora and fauna from two types of forests: dense rain forest and dry spiny forest. Africa’s island of Madagascar is home to many species found nowhere else on Earth.

At the Madagascar Forest habitat in Africa Rocks, guests will also soon see endangered red ruffed, red-collared and blue-eyed black lemurs, as well as the stunning Coquerel’s sifaka (si-FAHK.) The other lemurs will move in over the next few weeks, as their habitats are completed and they become comfortable in their new surroundings.

There are numerous species of lemurs, with the ring-tailed lemur being among the most populous and easily recognized—with its long nose, big eyes, woolly fur and long black-and-white ringed tail. Ring-tailed lemurs are mostly active during the day. Unlike other lemurs, they spend more time on the ground than in trees. All lemurs are threatened or endangered, primarily due to habitat destruction. San Diego Zoo Global is a managing member of the Madagascar Fauna Group, a conservation organization dedicated to assisting the Malagasy people in conserving their island’s plant and animal biodiversity.

The fossa is a catlike, carnivorous mammal endemic to Madagascar. While its body length is only 27 to 31 inches and it weighs just 12 to 22 pounds, the fossa is the island’s largest carnivore, and it feeds on lemurs. At first glance, a fossa looks like some kind of cat, monkey or weasel. Although it shares adaptive similarities with cats, the fossa is actually closely related to the mongoose and civet. Little is known about fossas, mostly because there are not many of them, and they live in remote, forested areas. They are a categorized as a Vulnerable species, and only an estimated 2,600 to 8,800 fossas still exist.

The honey badger, also known as a ratel, is a member of the weasel family, related to skunks, otters, ferrets and badgers. This tough, tenacious little predator has a reputation as a quarrelsome animal, if it is hungry or feels threatened. The honey badger’s skin is tough and loose, allowing the animal to twist around and bite an opponent that has grabbed it by the back of its neck. Combine that with a massive skull, strong teeth, and the ability to produce a skunk-like odor, and you have an animal nobody wants to mess with!

The Zoo’s 8-acre, $68 million Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks allows guests to stroll along a gently winding pathway through distinct biodiverse zones of Africa, with state-of-the-art animal habitats and garden spaces. Four of Africa Rock’s six habitats are now open: Cape Fynbos, featuring African penguins and leopard sharks; West African Forest, featuring dwarf crocodile and amphibian species; the Kopje, featuring dwarf mongooses, rock hyrax and meerkats; and the new Madagascar Forest. Two additional habitats will open as animals move in and become acclimated to their new homes. Those habitats include the Acacia Woodland, featuring vervet monkeys, leopards and a wide variety of birds; the Ethiopian Highlands, featuring hamadryas baboons, geladas and Nubian ibex; and the African Garden, near the Ethiopian Highlands area, showcasing eye-catching and unusual plants—including many never seen before at the Zoo, and some that are highly endangered.

Zoo guests can visit the new Madagascar Forest habitat and enjoy the last weekend of Nighttime Zoo presented by your San Diego County Toyota Dealers. Nighttime Zoo offers  activities, entertainment and animals, and extended Zoo hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sept. 4.