Long-lost elephant shrew is found after 50 years

The tiny mammal known as the “Somali elephant shrew” was finally rediscovered. Back in 2017, the Somali sengi…
Tiny elephant shrew

The tiny mammal known as the “Somali elephant shrew” was finally rediscovered.

Back in 2017, the Somali sengi was listed in the Global Wildlife Conservation’s list of species that needed to be found and protected.

This list was called the Search for Lost Species. It included 1,200 different species of flora and fauna. Listed among the “Top 25 Most Wanted” was the Somali sengi. It hadn’t been seen for 50 years.

But today, the Somali sengi, a tiny elephant shrew, is no longer a “lost species.”

In 2018, a researcher from Duke University’s Duke Lemur Center started a search for the creature. Coming from the Division of Fossil Primates, Dr. Steven Heritage and his team decided to look for the shrew beyond Somalia.

The shrew is named for its native country, Somalia. Historic records showed it being restricted to that country alone. But the research team led by Heritage used an expanded range for their search.

They set up traps—more than 1,200 of them—at 12 different sites. These sites were all in the Republic of Djibouti; specifically, they were in the regions of Dikhil, Ali Sabieh, Tadjourah, and Arta. Djibouti borders Somalia’s northwestern tip.

In the traps, they found hundreds of spiny mice, a few gerbils, a single gundi…

And eight Somali sengis!

Miraculous results

Dr. Heritage said that finding the creatures so quickly shocked and amazed his team:

It was amazing. When we opened the first trap and saw the little tuft of hair on the tip of its tail, we just looked at one another and couldn’t believe it. A number of small mammal surveys since the 1970s did not find the Somali sengi in Djibouti — it was serendipitous that it happened so quickly for us.

Dr. Steven Heritage

Houssein Rayaleh works at the Association Dijbouti Nature as a researcher. He said that people “living in Djibouti, and by extension the Horn of Africa… never considered the sengis to be ‘lost,’ but this new research does bring the Somali sengi back into the scientific community.”

Also, he spoke to how the story of the Somali sengi “highlights the great biodiversity of [Djibouti] and the region and shows that there are opportunities for new science and research” there.

Instead of the IUCN listing their conservation status as “Data Deficient,” the IUCN should now be recognizing the tiny elephant shrew as being “Least Concern.”

Article source: Sci-News

Featured image source: Steven Heritage

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