Tenrecs are shrew-like (subfamily Oryzorictinae) or hedgehog-like (subfamily Tenrecinae) mammals endemic to Madagascar. Despite their looks and size, they neither share common ancestors with shrews nor with hedgehogs, but indeed with aardvarks, hyraxes and elephants. They comprise fossorial, terrestrial, arboreal and even aquatic species.
The Common Tenrec Tenrec ecaudatus is the largest and most prolific species with as many as 32 young per litter. Thanks to this enormous reproductive capacity, regular consumption of Common Tenrecs by local people does not appear to have a lasting impact on tenrec populations.
Both Common Tenrecs and the beatutifully black-and-yellow-striped Lowland Streaked Tenrecs Hemicentetes semispinosus have been filmed at Mitsinjo’s Analamazaotra forest for the BBC’s 2009 Madagascar documentary narrated by David Attenborough. Streaked Tenrecs are particularly interesting as they communicate by rubbing together specialised quills on their backs, producing high pitch ultrasound calls. You can view the corresponding sequence by clicking on the Lowland Streaked Tenrec Hemicentetes semispinosus below:
All species captured in pitfalls have been recorded and marked before release to identify them during subsequent capture events. For some species, spool-and-line tracking has been used to observe tenrec habits and record characteristics of nesting burrows. Captured tenrecs were harnessed with a specialized line between their shoulders. The line automatically reels off as the animals move through the undergrowth, revealing the animals’ movements.