For the past half century, scientists have been concerned that the Somali shrew has disappeared permanently from Earth. No one has ever seen these little mammals like mice and long elephant noses.
But in a newly published study, the scientists happily released dozens of videos showing at least 12 living elephant shrews. These tiny mammals still grow quietly outside Somali, on a arid, rocky landscape in the eastern African nation of Djibouti.
Unique little animals: They are closer to elephants than mice
It must be clear that the elephant shrew is neither shrew nor elephant. It is a species of insectivorous mammal called the sengi. The elephant shrew belongs to the family Macroscelididae of the order Macroscelidea. It is called that because of its appearance resembles a shrew (family Soricidae) while its nose is as long as an elephant’s trunk.
In fact, sengi are closer to the elephant than shrew. Possessing very strong legs, these tiny animals can run at speeds of nearly 30 km / h, and are among the fastest-running small mammals in the world.
Elephant shrews are native to Africa and live mainly in Somalia. Since 1970, this animal is thought to have disappeared. Their 39 carcasses preserved in natural history museums are the only evidence that the elephant shrew ever existed on this planet.
The Global Wildlife Conservation Group even included it in the “The 25 most wanted missing species“And the exact 52-year search has finally paid off.
Last year explorers in Djibouti discovered elephant shrews living in the wild.
A movie of a newly discovered elephant shrew
A big hunt
It was a big hunt as the scientists had to place more than 1,250 cameras and bait peanut butter, oatmeal, and yeast extract in 12 areas in Djibouti. They identified these areas by interviewing locals who may have seen elephant shrews appear before.
“Our interviews with local nomads and herdsmen show that they regularly see elephant shrews“, says researcher Houssein Rayaleh from the Djibouti Nature Association.
The elephant shrew only disappeared because people thought it only lived in Somalia. But Rayaleh said that during his 21 years working in Djibouti, he also saw these small mammals alive.
To revive the elephant shrew in the red book, the only thing to do now is to identify the individuals in Djibouti that are also the long-lost Somali elephant shrew.
Djibouti sengi have never been officially recorded, no one is aware of them, Rayaleh told AFP. So the team invited Galen Rathburn, a global elephant shrew, who has been hunting them for decades but has never seen real-life elephant shrews join.
Steven Heritage, a Duke University researcher at the Lemur Center at Duke University, described the moment Rathburn looked at the first footage they gathered: “When he opened the camera trap and saw the cute puffy tail of the animal, he looked over at me and said ‘I can’t believe it, I’ve never seen it.’
Rathbun then died of cancer, and perhaps these footage became his comfort, like a lifelong wish.
A spectacular breakout on the extinction scale
In 1,250 camera traps located in Djibouti, the researchers captured 12 footage of elephant shrews. They published them in the PeerJ journal, claiming the Somali elephant shrew “still exists“and live far beyond Somali.
The team is currently planning a new expedition to learn more about this creature. They believe that the elephant shrew can even live in Ethiopia and even return to Somalia.
And while it is not possible to estimate the size of the population, scientists have grounds to believe that the elephant shrew is thriving again. “All locals have met the elephant shrew, so maybe it’s not rare“, Said Heritage.
In Djibouti, an underdeveloped East African country, the elephant shrew habitat is not yet threatened by urbanization or even agriculture. They live far away from humans, where the arid lands cannot be cultivated.
Now, the researchers are recommending the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reconsideration to put the Somali shrew off the list of vulnerable organisms. It is good news that a unique mammal has thrived again.
According to Robin Moore of the Global Wildlife Conservation: “Usually when we find a species that once disappeared, we find only one or two individuals and have to act quickly to prevent their extinction.”
But the Somali elephant shrew may have advanced far on the extinction scales. Given this diversity, it can be removed from the endangered list and grouped “Less worry”.
Over the last few years, the world has been steadily recording the return of a number of creatures that have disappeared over the decades, including the Jackson salamander in Guatemala, the giant wasp Wallace in Indonesia and the silver-backed croaker. – a species of deer, rabbit size in Vietnam.
Those are really good signals, but we can’t be subjective either. In the world there are many species of creatures that are still standing on the brink of extinction. To be able to protect them really takes a lot of effort from all of us.