A Potential New Species of Elephant Shrew
When a Kenyan student received an EDGE Fellowship to study the golden-rumped elephant shrew, she had little idea that she would discover a mysterious mammal potentially new to science.
The endangered golden-rumped elephant shrew is one of only four species of elephant shrew surviving today and is endemic to the highly fragmented coastal forests of eastern Kenya. The project began in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and then moved further north to the lesser studied Boni and Dodori Forests. The expedition discovered that the Boni Forest is indeed home to a species of elephant shrew, but brief glimpses suggested it might be different enough in appearance to be classified as a new species. A joint ZSL/Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) expedition, undertaken as part of a wider biodiversity survey, corroborated the initial suspicions when scientists observed the new elephant shrew first-hand and documented a number of distinguishing features. KWS, ZSL and partners are continuing to record the forest’s rich biodiversity and to determine conclusively if this is a new species. The findings of the study highlight the conservation importance, but poor state of current knowledge of these forests: the area is highly threatened by rapid ongoing development and urgently needs an effective conservation strategy.