New shrew-like mammal in Tanzania

OSLO (Reuters) - A new type of shrew-like creature with a snout similar to an elephant’s trunk has been found in the mountains of Tanzania, the first new species of the mammal found since the 19th century, scientists said.

The creature, a type of elephant shrew to be named the grey-faced sengi, was found in the Udzungwa mountains of south-central Tanzania by scientists from Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences and the California Academy of Sciences.

“It is the first new species of giant elephant shrew to be discovered in more than 126 years,” Galen Rathbun of the California Academy of Sciences said in a statement distributed by U.S.-based Conservation International.

The creature has a distinctive grey face and a black lower rump and weighs about 25 ounces, or 25 percent more than any of the other known 15 species of sengi. Elephant shrews use the snout to help probe for insects, their main food.

The sengi, with a bizarre mixture of relatives including elephants, sea cows and aardvarks, was first spotted by Italian scientist Francesco Rovero who had set up automatic cameras in a remote forest in 2005.

The discovery would be formally announced in the February 4 issue of the Journal of Zoology.

Scientists say discoveries of new mammals are rare and pollution, clearance of forests for farms and cities, climate change and other factors are raising the risks of extinction.

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Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Matthew Tostevin