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11 06/11/2015

Cheeky sengis make debut

  • Mammals
  • New arrivals
  • Sengi

Two unusual African sengis have made their debuts.

Sengis at Chester Zoo

The tiny newcomers, which are also known as round eared elephant-shrews, were born at the zoo for the very first time during the summer in a special behind-the-scenes breeding facility.

Now three-months-old and fully grown, the duo are the first of their kind to ever go on show to visitors at Chester.

Bizarrely, the tiny creatures are not thought to be directly linked to their shrew cousins in other parts of the world and are more closely related to elephants, and are amongst very few mammals that naturally pair up for life.

James Andrewes, assistant team manager at Chester Zoo, said:

They might look like a shrew but, fascinatingly, our new arrivals are in fact distantly related to manatees, aardvarks, hyraxes and elephants. In the past the species was commonly known as the elephant-shrew but many biologists are now referring to them as sengi so as not to confuse them with true shrews. 

They’re a really charismatic and intriguing little species and, having now had our first successes with encouraging them to breed, we’re beginning to learn more and more about them. In fact, there are nineteen different species of sengi, which are very poorly known in the wild and only as recently as last year a new species was discovered in Namibia.

Sengis at Chester Zoo

Sengi weigh between 30 and 45 grams and grow only to be four inches in length, making them the smallest of the 19 sub-species.

They are native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and are found in a range of habitats including desert, forest and scrubland.

At Chester Zoo they can be seen inside its Secret World of the Okapi exhibit.

Sengis makes debut at Chester Zoo

Sengi facts

  • Scientific name: Macroscelides proboscideus
  • The species is native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa
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