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Giant Elephant Shrew Arrives Unnoticed at Washington’s National Zoo

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo now has a baby black and rufous giant elephant-shrew — also known as a sengi, the Zoo announced.

“Keepers at the Small Mammal House did not know it had been born until they saw three elephant-shrews in the exhibit instead of two,” the Zoo says on its Web site. The birth was planned as part of a captive breeding program, but the keepers had not been aware that it happened because baby elephant-shrews typically remain buried deep in their nest for the first several weeks of life. It is estimated that the baby was born in late January.

Elephant-shrews are neither elephants nor shrews, but belong to their own group of ancient mammals, the Zoo said. “They are distantly related to aardvarks, the order of mammals that includes manatees and dugongs, hyraxes, and elephants. Native to eastern Kenya and Tanzania, the black and rufous giant elephant-shrew is listed as vulnerable to extinction.”

Watch a video of the baby and an interview with Zoo biologist Ashton Shaffer:

Photo and video courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo