The Somali sengi (Galegeeska revoilii), a tiny member of the elephant shrew family, has been considered extinct for the last 50 years. However, new sightings in Somalia and Djibouti show that the species isn’t lost after all.
NPR reports that the shrew has made a comeback in both countries after more than half a century of absence — the last official record of one being spotted comes from 1968. Even more impressive is that the species isn’t native to the country of Djibouti.
Small but kicking
“It’s a teeny, tiny relative of an aardvark and an elephant that’s the size of a mouse,” Steven Heritage, a researcher from Duke University who has been looking for the creature, told NPR.
“We know now that it is for sure a rock-dwelling Sengi. We know that it has foot-drumming behavior as one of its communication behaviors. So we have some basic knowledge now.”
Being considered extinct for such a long time means that researchers don’t really know a lot about the species. With its reappearance, however, that lack of understanding might be addressed — as well as the questions regarding how this species stayed hidden for so long.
While the spotting is definitely good news for the species — it can’t be extinct yet if it’s right there — we have no idea of the health of the species. Without reliable population figures, we simply can’t know if the shrew is, in fact, on the verge of disappearing completely. Being spotted outside of its native range is definitely encouraging, but not enough on its own to point to a recovery.
What we do know is that the shrew is good at keeping a low profile. So in the future, researchers will need to be extra crafty in order to gain accurate data on the shrews’ health, habits, and dietary preferences. From there, they can piece together a snapshot of their entire species’s health, and decide whether conservation efforts are needed to keep it from going extinct.