New species of giant elephant-shrew discovered in Tanzania

This video from the USA shows a giant elephant shrew; filmed at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists Discover New Species of Giant Elephant-Shrew in Tanzania

Related to sea cows and elephants, it lives in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania and is the largest elephant-shrew yet discovered.

January 2008. Although there is unquestionably much left to be discovered about life on Earth, charismatic animals like mammals are usually well documented, and it is rare to find a new species today, especially from a group as intriguing as the elephant-shrews.

Distant Cousins of the Elephant

Elephant shrews are monogamous mammals found only in Africa with a colourful history of misunderstood ancestry. Like shrews, these small, furry mammals eat mostly insects. Early scientists named them elephant-shrews not because they thought the animals were related to elephants but because of their long, flexible snouts. Ironically, recent molecular research has shown that they are actually more closely related to elephants than to shrews.

They evolved in Africa over 100 million years ago, and their relatives include elephants, sea cows and the aardvark. Until recently, only 15 species of elephant-shrews, also called sengis to avoid confusion with true shrews, were known to science. However, in March of 2006, California Academy of Sciences Research Associate Galen Rathbun and a team of collaborators confirmed the existence of a new species that lives only in two high-altitude forest blocks in the mountains of south-central Tanzania. Their discovery appeared in the January 25 issue of The Journal of Zoology.

First New Species of Elephant Shrew for 125+ Years

This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career,’ said Rathbun, who has studied the ecology, social structure, and evolution of sengis for more than 30 years. ‘It is the first new species of giant elephant-shrew to be discovered in more than 126 years. From the moment I first lifted one of the animals into our photography tent, I knew it must be a new species, not just because of its distinct colouring, but because it was so heavy!’ The new species, which has been named the grey-faced sengi (Rhynochocyon udzungwensis), weighs about 700 grams (1.5 pounds), which is 25 percent larger than any other known sengi.

First Seen in 2005

The new sengi was first caught on film in 2005, when Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences in Italy set up camera traps inside the remote Ndundulu Forest in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains, where he was surveying the region’s forest mammals. When the cameras recorded an elephant-shrew that looked unfamiliar, he sent the photos to Rathbun for identification, who determined that the colourful animal appeared to be a new species. In March of 2006, they embarked on a two-week expedition with a team of colleagues to search for specimens to confirm the discovery.

See also here.

And here.

Video about this new discovery: here.

7 thoughts on “New species of giant elephant-shrew discovered in Tanzania

  1. Tanzania: Opposition MPs Slam Govt for Hunting Fees About-Turn

    The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

    11 July 2008
    Posted to the web 11 July 2008

    Rodgers Luhwago

    The government was yesterday accused in Parliament of unilaterally deciding to lower wildlife hunting fees. The opposition camp claimed the decision did not follow proper procedures after the legislature had endorsed the new rates in the past budgetary meeting. Shadow minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Magdalena Sakaya demanded an explanation, saying the move would deny the government substantial revenue. Ms Sakaya wondered how the government could ignore parliamentary resolutions.

    The opposition said while the hunting fee for a Cape buffalo in South Africa was $ 16,200 the same animal is hunted for $2,200 in Tanzania. She added that while the fee for hunting Nyasaland wild beest in South Africa and Namibia is $1,100, the same fetches $ 750 in Tanzania. She said Tanzania was leading in the world in terms of having attractive policies but again led in ailing to implement them.

    Presenting the 2008/2009 ministry’s budget, the Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism Shamsa Mwangunga said the government lowered the hunting fees to keep pace with the actual situation. However, she did not elaborate. The minister said as a result of the decision, the ministry’s revenue collections dropped by 38 per cent in the 2007/2008 financial year. The ministry had expected to collect Sh 48,694,840,000 before reducing hunting fees, she stated.

    Meanwhile, two foreign investors in the tourism sector came under attack for a second time yesterday for mistreatment of local people in their areas and barring members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from visiting Gurumeti Reserve in the Serengeti. A French hotel firm in Babati, Un Lodge en Afrique, was not spared by the attacks from the opposition camp in Parliament for mistreatment of Vilima Vitatu villagers in the district.

    The shadow minister said the investor acquired 4,084 hectares of the village land without following proper procedures. She said the worst part of the story was that locals belonging to the pastoralist communities were evicted from the area. The French investor is now building a hotel on the corridor through which wild animals pass to and from Lake Manyara and Tarangire.The decision to give the land to the investor did not involve villagers as required by land laws. she asserted.

    In another development, CCM and opposition MPs have strongly opposed government plans to allow the construction of a soda ash plant around Lake Natron, saying the implementation of the project would have adverse effects on the lake bio-diversity. Benedict ole Nangoro (CCM-Kiteto) and Job Ndugai (CCM-Kongwa) said Lake Natron was a breeding site of the rare flamingos, and the factory project would destroy the habitat.

    Mr Ndugai was presenting views of the parliamentary standing committee for land, natural resources and environment while Mr ole Nangoro was contributing to the debate on the ministry’s estimates.

    Shadow minister Madgalena Sakaya joined the fray, saying Lake Natron was a home to 2.5 million lesser flamingos, 70 per cent of which breed in the site. “It is shocking to hear of intentions to destroy this breeding site by building a soda ash plant,” she said.

    Presenting the estimates, Ms Mwangunga said the process to construct the International University of Tourism would start this financial year. She said the building site has been obtained in Coast region. The project is implemented by the government in collaboration with the World Trade University.

    The ministry has been allocated Sh 71,975,518,000 this financial year out of which Sh 10,340,443,800 is for personal emoluments (PE) while Sh27,835,223,200 is for other charges (OC). Sh 33,799,851,000 was set out for development projects.


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  3. Tanzania: Mkomazi Game Reserve – A Forgotten Wilderness?

    Arusha Times (Arusha)

    9 August 2008
    Posted to the web 11 August 2008

    Charlotte Kingsman

    Everyday thousands of people pass near Mkomazi National Park gates at Same Town, on one of Tanzania’s busiest highway. Only a few of them, however, know of its rugged acacia-covered beauty beside Usambara and Pare mountains, with Kilimanjaro in the distance.

    Black Rhino

    East of the Pare Mountains, Mkomazi falls along the edge of a semi-arid savanna arc that stretches into bordering Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park. Together with Tsavo Park, Mkomazi now represents one of the largest protected areas in all of Africa.

    Although it hides merely a few minutes away from Same Town, the road to Mkomazi leads you to an entirely different world. The park, vast yet dense, is overwhelming with beauty. We do not need to lament that Mkomazi is forgotten as it only gives us a better feeling of what it is to be lost into the Wild.

    The park’s name comes from the Pare tribe’s word for “water source”, referring to the Umba River on Mkomazi’s south eastern border. The river and other water holes keep the park abounding with small and big mammals, including silver backed jackals, lions, cheetahs, leopards, lesser kudus, giraffes, buffalos, elephants and zebras. The Park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 450 avian species from tawny eagles to kingfishers and many different kinds of parrots.

    Mkomazi is the place where the black rhino and the wild dog have returned to roam. Indeed, the highlight of the journey is the 30 square mile Black Rhino Sanctuary. The sight of the endangered specie makes you forget that the sanctuary is surrounded by an electrified fence and heavily patrolled by armed guards. Built over 5 years it now houses a population of eight rhinos, the first of its kind in Tanzania.

    Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Mkomazi suffered a dramatic decline due to inadequate protection and severe mismanagement. During this devastating period the population of black rhinos fell from over four hundred individuals to zero. Previous to that, the park held one of the largest numbers of breeding rhinos.

    The government recently promoted the reserve into a national park and extended the Ruaha Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania by incorporating Ihefu and Usangu basins. Thus Mkomazi Game Reserve is now the country’s 15th national park.


  4. Pingback: Snake, insect discoveries in Kenya | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: New elephant shrew species discovery in Namibia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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