The Somali sengi, a mouse-sized elephant shrew, makes a comeback after being lost to science since 1968. The tiny animal is alive and well in the Horn of Africa.
“In a single expedition to a part of Africa that is challenging to work in, the team have achieved remarkable success,” says Andrew Taylor, the chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s specialist group covering sengis. “Not only have they formally documented the continued existence of the Somali sengi for the first time in 50 years, they have also corrected our understanding of the species’ genus.”
Their name “elephant shrew” comes from a perceived resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an elephant, and their superficial similarity with shrews. But elephant shrews are not classified with true shrews. In fact, they are more closely related to elephants than shrews. In 1997, the biologist Jonathan Kingdon proposed that they instead are called “sengi”. The habitat in which the Somali sengis live doesn’t have any looming threats. “Usually when we rediscover lost species, we find just one or two individuals and have to act quickly to try to prevent their imminent extinction,” says Robin Moore, of the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) group. Indeed, the animal chose a territory largely unsuitable for human activities. Therefore, it is suggested that the creature has a secure future.