Scientists just rediscovered a mouse-sized elephant shrew—an animal that is neither an elephant nor a shrew. The Somali sengi went missing nearly half a century ago, according to Global Wildlife Conservation. The tiny mammal has a long nose, a tuft of fur on its tail, and huge eyes for its small size.
Researchers previously thought the mammal lived only in Somalia but received tips last year that an ecologist and some of the locals in the neighboring country of Djibouti had seen a few of them.
In a study published on Aug. 18, researchers described how they analyzed dung piles at various sites that provided the right kind of habitat and set 1,259 traps with a tasty mix of peanut butter, oatmeal, and yeast. They caught one of the mammals in the first trap they set. The elephant shrew lives in a dry area inhospitable to farming and development, so its habitat doesn’t face any looming threats, the researchers noted.
The Somali sengi mates for life and uses its long nose like an elephant’s trunk to devour insects.
“They are not well-known animals, but when you see them, it’s impossible not to adore them,” said Steven Heritage, a research scientist at the Duke University Lemur Center and lead author of the study. —J.B.