Adorable 'lost' Somali Sengi rediscovered in Africa after 50 years

A tiny, adorable mammal that resembles a field mouse and that stays with the same mate for life — the Somali Sengi — was thought to potentially be extinct. Scientists went more than 50 years without documenting the critter; in fact, the Somali Sengi was one of the top 25 'most wanted' lost species named by the Global Wildlife Conservation. As it turns out, locals knew about the creature's continued existence all along.

There are many varieties of sengis, also called the elephant-shrew, and they all live in various parts of Africa. The Global Wildlife Conservation describes the tiny mammal as having a long nose similar to that of an elephant, as well as legs that make it capable of hopping, plus it has a long mouse-like tail. The creature feeds on insects.

Though it was too soon to call the Somali Sengi extinct, it managed to evade scientists for decades, leading to a call for investigations into its potential continued existence. The Global Wildlife Conservation listed it among its most-sought lost species, labeling it as 'data deficient.'

In an official announcement on August 18 first spied by New Atlas, the organization revealed that the Somali Sengi has been rediscovered and that it has been living in the Djibouti wilds. This is the first time the species existence has been confirmed by scientists since 1968.

The newly published study's lead author Steven Heritage of Duke University Lemur Center said:

Sengi biology is a science of passion. It takes somebody that's motivated by passion for sengis to go out looking for this lost species. They are not well-known animals, but when you see them, it's impossible not to adore them.

Locals in Djibouti had reported seeing the tiny animals when interviewed, plus local research ecologist Houssein Rayaleh of the Association Djibouti Nature confirmed awareness of the Somali Sengi's presence in the nation. This spurred a hunt in Djibouti by researchers last year, one that involved more than 1,200 live traps filled with peanut butter and oatmeal bait. The very first trap caught one of the sengis, which is shown in the image above, and a dozen of the creatures were witnessed by the scientists.

IMAGE: The first scientific documentation of a live Somali Sengi by Steven Heritage, Duke University Lemur Center, via Global Wildlife Conservation