Giant Elephant Shrew Arrives Unnoticed at Washington’s National Zoo


The Smithsonian’s National Zoo now has a baby black and rufous giant elephant-shrew — also known as a sengi, the Zoo announced.

“Keepers at the Small Mammal House did not know it had been born until they saw three elephant-shrews in the exhibit instead of two,” the Zoo says on its Web site. The birth was planned as part of a captive breeding program, but the keepers had not been aware that it happened because baby elephant-shrews typically remain buried deep in their nest for the first several weeks of life. It is estimated that the baby was born in late January.

Elephant-shrews are neither elephants nor shrews, but belong to their own group of ancient mammals, the Zoo said. “They are distantly related to aardvarks, the order of mammals that includes manatees and dugongs, hyraxes, and elephants. Native to eastern Kenya and Tanzania, the black and rufous giant elephant-shrew is listed as vulnerable to extinction.”

Watch a video of the baby and an interview with Zoo biologist Ashton Shaffer:

Photo and video courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn