Tailless Tenrec

Like other tenrecs, this is an island species. It lives on Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, which lie between Madagascar and the African mainland. The insectivore has also been introduced to several other Indian Ocean islands, including the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The tailless tenrec is a forest animal, but it is highly adaptable and will eat whatever it can find. The species has therefore not suffered from the deforestation that has occurred in Madagascar and elsewhere. Instead it has adapted to life alongside humans and is found everywhere apart from arid habitats.

Tailless tenrecs look rather like a combination of a shrew, thanks to their pointed faces, and a hedgehog, because of their long, spiny fur.

This species is the largest member of this family of primitive mammals, which are often described as insectivores, because of their diet. Tailless tenrecs can be found in a wide range of habitats, and are largely nocturnal by nature. They build a nest of grass and other vegetation hidden under rocks or logs. If challenged they erect their spiny hairs, which become particularly noticeable around the neck. Tenrecs will jump, bite and scream to defend themselves.

When young, the tenrecs have a row of white spines along 7 the back. Adult tenrecs shed the spines and grow a mane in its place.

The insectivores are solitary creatures. They forage at dusk and before dawn among rubbish tips for waste food. In the wild the tenrec survives mainly on insects and other invertebrates but also eats fruits and leaves and hunts for lizards, frogs and small mammals.

In the dry season, tailless tenrecs hibernate in deep burrows which they plug with soil. Before hibernation, the tenrec builds up its fat reserves to sustain it through its 6-month sleep. Tailless tenrecs give birth in the rainy season after a pregnancy of 9 weeks. Up to 32 young are born in a single litter, but half this number is more usual. The young begin to feed themselves at the age of three weeks.

Distribution: Occurs on the various groups of islands off the southwestern coast of Africa. These include Madagascar, Reunion, the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros.

Habitat: Areas with running water where shrubs and bush grow. Most common in the humid forests of eastern Madagascar.

Weight: 1.5 - 2.5 kg (3.25 - 5.5 lb).

Length: 26 - 39 cm (10 - 15.5 in); although called the tailless tenrec, this species has a short tail, measuring just 1 cm (0.3 in).

Maturity: 1 year.

Gestation Period: 50 - 60 days.

Breeding: Litters usually comprise 10 - 12 young.

Food: Hunts invertebrates on the forest floor, as well as frogs and small rodents such as mice.

Lifespan: 3 - 6 years.

Status: Common.

Eyes

The eyes are relatively small, indicating the tenrec's nocturnal nature.

Ears

Small and rounded at their tips, the ears are quite mobile.

Fur

The fur is coarse, shortest on the head and varying from grey to reddish-grey, mixed with spiny hairs that offer protection against predators.

Nose

Mobile and highly sensitive, the tenrec's nose allows it to locate its prey, even when hidden by leaves on the ground.

MOTHER AND YOUNG

Baby tailless tenrecs differ in appearance from adults because their fur is striped, being black and white in colour.

Gallery of Tailless Tenrec