Mammals related to elephants but as small as rats were rediscovered in Africa after 50 years.
The existence of elephant rats was last scientifically documented in the 1970s.
So it is referred to as a “lost species”, despite local sightings.
The species was found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, on a scientific expedition.
The elephant shrew is not a shrew or elephant but is related to aardvark, elephant and manatee (sea ox).
They have a characteristic nose shape, like a trunk, which they use to eat insects.
There are 20 species of sengi in the world, and this Somali rat (Elephantulus revoilii) is one of the most mysterious.
This species is known to science only from 39 individuals who were collected decades ago and kept in a museum.
Previously, he was only known from Somalia, which is why he was called sengi Somalia.
Steven Heritage, a researcher at the Duke University Lemur Center in Durham, said he was excited to be able to put the species “back on the radar”.
But Houssein Rayaleh, an ecologist and conservationist from Djibouti who joined the trip, believes he has seen the animal before.
He said that although people in Djibouti never considered the sting “gone”, this new research only returned Somali stinging to the scientific community, a contribution that was greatly appreciated.
“For Djibouti, this is an important story that highlights the extraordinary biodiversity in the country and region and shows that there are opportunities for new science and research here,” he said.
The expedition team set more than 1,000 traps at 12 locations, setting the bait in a mixture of peanut butter, oatmeal, and yeast.
They caught one of the animals in the first trap they set in the rocky dry landscape of Djibouti.
In total, they saw 12 of these rats during their expedition and for the first time obtained photos and videos of the surviving Somali elephant shrew for scientific documentation.
They see no direct threat to the habitat of these species, which are inaccessible and remote from agriculture and human development.
The abundance of this species appears to be similar to that of other elephant rats and can range beyond Somalia to Djibouti and possibly Ethiopia.