Unknown elephant relative photographed in Kenya

mongabay.com
September 16, 2010



Scientists conducting research in the Boni-Dodori forest on the coast of northeastern Kenya may have discovered a new species of giant elephant-shrew, reports the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The mystery animal was photographed by a camera trap after Grace Wambui, a fellow of ZSL’s EDGE of Existence program, spotted mystery animal she believed to be an unknown type of elephant-shrew. Scientists now need to conduct genetic analysis to determine whether the species is new to science.

"This is an important discovery. The whole team was very excited to capture pictures of this mammal," said Rajan Amin, a senior field conservation biologist with ZSL. "We will continue our work to document the forest’s rich biodiversity and to determine if this is a new species of elephant-shrew. The findings of our study are highlighting the conservation importance of these unique coastal forests."


The mystery sengi. Photo by the Zoological Society of London


The golden-rumped elephant-shrew, a species related to the giant sengi captured by the camera trap in Kenya's Boni-Dodori forest. Photo by Galen Rathbun
The ecosystem is presently at risk from coastal development, according to Sam Andanje of the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is involved with the biodiversity assessment in Boni-Dodori.

"Prior to our study, the biodiversity of the Boni-Dodori forests was poorly understood as a result of limited access due to security problems and poor infrastructur," he said in a statement. "This discovery has underlined the conservation significance of these isolated forests. Unfortunately, they are highly threatened by on-going rapid coastal development and there is now an urgent need for an effective management plan."

There are currently 17 known species of elephant-shrew, which are also known as giant sengi. Elephant-shrews are more closely related to elephants than shrews, despite their dimmunitive nature, but are named for their long trunk-like snout. All elephant shrews are found only in Africa.









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Unknown elephant relative photographed in Kenya.

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