• 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?

      Yes, but mongoose-like carnivores on Madagascar have evolved independently and they are more closely related to other species of carnivorous mammals on Madagascar, including the fossa and the Malagasy civet.

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

      Forest fragmentation occurs when deforestation results in smaller, isolated areas of forest that were once connected. This can lead to insufficient habitats for species to thrive and ultimately to ecosystem decay.

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

      When ring-tailed vontsira prey on domestic poultry, this can anger and frustrate poultry farmers who rely on the poultry for their livelihood. Farmers will sometimes retaliate by hunting or trapping the ring-tailed mongoose and ultimately killing it.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    carnivore Noun

    organism that eats meat.

    Encyclopedic Entry: carnivore
    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.

    scavenger Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: scavenger