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Missing Tiny Elephant Shrew Species Rediscovered After 50 Years In East Africa

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The tiny mouse-sized species called the Somali sengi; an elephant shrew seemingly vanished about 52 years ago, has been rediscovered.

Until recently, the adorable tiny creature has been found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific excursion.

The Somali sengi mates for life, it sucks up ants with its trunk-like nose and can race around at 30km/h.

According to The Guardian, in 2019, scientists set out to search for the animal following tips from the region, but not in Somalia, where only past reports had come, but in neighboring Djibouti. 

Locals identified the creature from old photographs with Houssein Rayaleh, of Association Djibouti Nature.

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BBC said that there are about 20 species of sengis globally, and the Somali sengi is one of the most mysterious.

Scientists were able to observe and trap the Somali sengi using knowledged gained by the locals, combined with what they already knew of the animals.

The creature was successfully trapped by baiting with a mixture of oatmeal, peanut butter, and yeast.

A research scientist Steven Heritage, at Duke University in the U.S., said they were amazed when they opened the first trap and saw the little tuft of hair on the tip of its tail, as that is a telltale that is it a Somali sengi.

The team was happy not to witness any imminent threats to the sengi’s habitat, which is mostly unsuitable for human activities such as development or agriculture, suggesting a secure future for the creature. 

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The team had set up over 1,000 traps at various locations and saw about 12 sengis in total, whereas they usually would rediscover just one or tow lost species.

The chair Andrew Taylor, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s specialist group, added that in a single expedition to Africa that is very challenging to work in, they had achieved remarkable success.

Not only have they documented the continued existence of the Somali sengi, but they have also corrected their understanding of the species’ genus.

An elephant shrew is strangely neither a mouse nor a shrew. They are more likely closely related to elephants, aardvarks, and manatees, which have similar trunks. 

Apparently, they get their name from their long pointed head and long trunk-like nose.

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Elephant shrews distribution is confined to profoundly fragmented forests, restricting their path to available resources and making finding a mate more complicated, resulting in limited populations.

This wonderful rediscovery fills us with renewed hope for finding other mammals on wanted lists.

Elephant shrews are native only to Africa. There are eighteen species found in a variety of habitats ranging from coastal deserts to rain forests, and they vary in size and color.

They use scent glands under their tail to mark their trails to point out directions towards food. They defend their territory aggressively against other elephant shrews.

Scientists plan to launch another expedition in 2022 to GPS radio-tag the elephant shrews to study their behaviour and ecology.

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