The elephant shrew seemed lost to science until its recent rediscovery thanks to a dab of peanut butter. Other than its fondness for the cupboard staple, what other facts do we know about the miniature mammal?  

What is an elephant shrew?

This elusive critter is so-named due to is rodent size and trunk-like snout. Formerly counted among the 25 ‘most wanted lost species’ , the elephant shrew was recently rediscovered by scientists after seemingly vanishing for 50 years. All it took was a dab of peanut butter and a great stroke of luck.

Photo by Alexander Plunze/EyeEm via Getty Images

Not only is this rodent-like mammal an actual relative of the elephant, but also of the ant-eating aardvark and the rare, sea-dwelling manatee. Given its diverse and remarkable heritage, it’s no wonder scientists were thrilled to rediscover the elephant shrew.

The formerly lost species, formally known as Somali sengi, is one of 20. The variety is known for its elusiveness, and documented thanks to just 39 individuals collected over several decades.

Unofficial reports of elephant shrew sightings in Djibouti, prompted scientists to set traps baited with peanut butter, to satiate their curiosity. The crew’s very first trap proved successful and, after five decades, they finally laid eyes on a specimen of this elusive animal.

Quick-fire elephant shrew facts

The shy critters use their nose (or proboscis) to suck up ants, just like their aardvark relative.

Elephant shrews are also known as jumping shews. They can jump up to three feet high, or about one metre.

As if they couldn’t be any cuter, they also carry food in their cheeks. Yes, just like your science lab hamster in primary school.

They build their nests from dry leaves, right on the ground.

 Elephant shrews mate for life – aw!

When running, they can reach speeds up to 30kmh.

The elephant shrew is now among five animals on the ‘Global Wildlife Conservation 25 Most Wanted Lost Species’ which have been found. The list also includes Jackson’s Climbing Salamander and Wallace’s Giant Bee.

Just 20 more to go – watch this space!

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