Tiny elephant shrew reappears in two countries after five decades of being thought lost

Though the Somali elephant shrew was thought to be a lost species, locals of East Africa identified the animal easily in pictures.

The tiny Somali sengi, also called the Somali elephant shrew, was thought to have been lost forever after not being sighted for more than 50 years.

The mouse-sized animal was last seen in its home country of Somalia in 1968 and according to the Global Wildlife conservation website, it remains to be one of the least well-known of the 20 species of sengis, or elephant-shrew found in Africa. They are “very swift small mammals” that do not actually belong to the family of true shrews but are “more closely related to elephants than shrews”. Hope is not lost for their survival, with the mammal having been spotted not once, but twice in two different countries recently.

Steven Heritage, a Duke University Lemur Center researcher who travelled to Djibouti to look for the Somali sengi, spoke with NPR about the animal and the sightings.

“It's a teeny, tiny relative of an aardvark and an elephant that's the size of a mouse," Heritage said.

Elephant shrew. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Elephant shrew. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Though the global wildlife conservation has declared the Somali elephant shrew as a lost species, locals of East Africa could easily identify having seen the animals when Heritage and his team showed them the pictures.

Following this, their team set a trap for the “charismatic microfauna”, or the “cute little animal” and the mammal did not disappoint them. The report adds that an ecologist from Djibouti, Houssein Rayaleh, was part of the research team that identified the Somali sengi.

Apart from the neighbouring nation Djibouti, the animal was also sighted in its native Somalia, reported BGR.

Since the animal has remained in hiding for over a half decade, it's safe to assume that it knows how to do it well. And so, researchers need to find out more about the elephant shrew to keep a track over its activities like its habits, diet, and other essential information.

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