Friday, 5 June 2009
Adapted extract from Gerald Durrell's 'The Aye-aye and I' (1992):
A flash of russet red caught my eye in the bushes some six feet in front of the vehicle and, suddenly, from out of the undergrowth, silent as a cloud shadow, came a Fosa which walked languidly to the middle of the road and sat down and remained immobile for a minute or two.
There was no mistaking that slouching, indolent, cat-like gait. We are observing the largest carnivorous mammal in Madagascar, looking very much like a young puma and with a puma’s walk.
It was relaxed and perfectly at ease: no furtive glances over its shoulder, no ear twitches, no tensing of the muscles.
The Fosa had a long athletic-looking body and an inordinately long tail.
Its head seemed small in comparison to the rest of its body and reminded me of the ancient Egyptian carvings of sacred cats.
Its fur looked dense and sleek and was a beautiful, warm honey-gingerbread colour.
It was, after all, carrying the banner of the lion, the tiger and the jaguar.
It sat, silent and unmoving for a few minutes, and then commenced to groom itself thoroughly as a cat does, lifting its plump paws to be licked and have the odd burr nibbled away, stretching its hind legs out to receive a wash, curry-combing its thick tail assiduously.
He then sat upright again, sighed, yawned prodigiously with a flash of white teeth, tested the wind and, then, slowly and gracefully, he crossed the road and disappeared into the forest.
His immense sickle of a tail swinging from side to side like a bell-rope behind him.
To have spent ten minutes with such a rare and beautiful creature was a privilege.
Yet the Malagasy dislike and fear the Fosa.
They assert it is quite fearless and will attack zebu and calves.
And man himself if provoked.
But the Fosa is benign and noble and would curl up at your fireside: a large, gentle, honey-coloured adornment to your hearth.