The new sengi was first caught on film in 2005, when Francesco Rovero of the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences in Italy set up camera traps inside the remote Ndundulu Forest in Tanzanias Udzungwa Mountains, where he was surveying the regions forest mammals. When the cameras recorded an elephant-shrew that looked unfamiliar, he sent the photos to Rathbun for identification, who determined that the colorful animal appeared to be a new species. In March of 2006, they embarked on a two-week expedition with a team of colleagues to search for specimens to confirm the discovery.
Although it was supposed to be the dry season, the rains came early, and the traps they had brought with them turned out to be too small for the surprisingly large sengis. But with perseverance and the help of some traditional twine snares, they were able to capture four animals and make 40 observations, confirming the presence of a new species. Its unique features include a distinctive grey face and a jet-black lower rump, as well as a large body size. So far, the new giant sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis) is known to exist in only two populations that cover about 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) of forest in Tanzania. The other three species in the genus Rhynchocyon are also rare due to restricted and fragmented forest habitatsone is listed as endangered by the IUCN, another is listed as near-threatened, and the third is on the vulnerable list.
The Udzungwa Mountains are part of a series of ancient and isolated mountain blocks stretching from southern Kenya to south-central Tanzania. The age, isolation and fragmented nature of the forests in these mountains have combined to produce high levels of biodiversity, including many species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. In recent years, a number of other new species have been found there, including the Udzungwa partridge, the
|Contact: Stephanie Stone|