The ring-tailed vontsira (Galidia elegans), also called the ring-tailed mongoose, is one of six species of mongoose-like carnivores found on Madagascar, an island nation that sits 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the southern African continent. The ring-tailed vontsira live in many parts of Africa, southern Asia, and isolated portions of southern Europe.  But Madagascar’s mongoose—along with the other native carnivores on the island—have evolved independently, isolated from the mainland continent for at least the last 18 million years. In fact, Madagascar has been separated from any other landmasses for over 50 million years due to geologic rifting. This means that Madagascar’s carnivores along with many of the island’s other native land mammals (including lemurs) are found nowhere else in the world except Madagascar, a country about the size of the U.S. states of California and Florida combined.

Ring-tailed vontsiras are diurnal creatures. They can climb trees and are known to be adept swimmers. Their diet consists of small birds, mammals, eggs, reptiles, insects, and freshwater aquatic species. They are also known to prey on domesticated poultry and scavenge through human refuse piles. 

Madagascar’s wildlife has been facing severe threats over the past few decades from deforestation. Although the ring-tailed vontsira’s population is not considered endangered right now, it will be important to monitor their numbers in the future. In addition to deforestation, the vontsira has also been facing threats from the introduction of new, competitor carnivore species including cats, dogs, and civets. The rate of hunting has also increased due to instability in the country and the increase in illegal hunting and mining.

  1. Are mongoose-like carnivores, such as the ring-tailed vontsira, on Madagascar related to mongoose in Africa and Asia?

  2. How is forest fragmentation a problem for wild animals on Madagascar?

  3. What issues can arise when ring-tailed vontsira prey on domestic poultry?

Noun

organism that eats meat.

deforestation
Noun

destruction or removal of forests and their undergrowth.

diurnal
Adjective

active during the day.

domesticate
Verb

to tame or adapt for human use.

ecosystem decay
Noun

process in which a species becomes extinct due to habit fragmentation.

fragmentation
Noun

breaking up of large habitats into smaller, isolated chunks. Fragmentation is one of the main forms of habitat destruction.

isolated
Adjective

alone or separated from others.

mining
Noun

process of extracting ore from the Earth.

poultry
Noun

domesticated birds, such as chickens.

rift
Noun

break in the Earth's crust created by it spreading or splitting apart.

Noun

organism that eats dead or rotting biomass, such as animal flesh or plant material.