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Animals Nature

Lost and Found: The Somali Elephant Shrew is back!

The Somali Sengi, also known as the Somali Elephant Shrew, is back after a 50-year hiatus. The small insectivorous mammal endemic to Somalia was deemed extinct since the 1970s by the Global Wildlife Conservation’s list of lost species. 

But scientists recently rediscovered a thriving population of Somali Sengi in Djibouti. 

“Here we report new evidence that the Somali Sengi is currently extant,” says the study.

“These data include voucher specimens, georeferenced occurrence localities, body measurements, habitat parameters, and DNA sequences. While the species is historically documented as endemic to Somalia, these new records are from the neighboring Republic of Djibouti and thus expand the Somali Sengi’s known range in the Horn of Africa.”

The adorable mouse-sized creature features a long snout that allows it to suck up ants into its trunk-like nose. The animal is also known to pick up speeds of 19 miles per hour. 

The shrew is neither elephant nor shrew, to be exact, but a distant relative to aardvarks, hyraxes, and manatees.  

Lost for half a century and found, let’s hope we never lose sight of the adorable Somali Sengi again.  

Lost and Found: The Somali Elephant Shrew is back!
Photo: pum_eva from Getty Images via Canva Pro
Lost and Found: The Somali Elephant Shrew is back!
Photo: Courtesy of Steven Heritage
Categories
Nature Travel

The beauty of Madagascar’s giant Baobab trees

The Grandidier’s Baobabs (Palmate adansonia) are giant trees indigenous to Africa, predominantly on Madagascar’s beautiful island.

Baobabs can live up to 800 to 1000 years with their unique ability to act as a water storage tank—the tree stores up to 1000 to 120,000 liters of water in their thick trunks. Both the animals and locals tap the trees for H20 during the dry season.

At the heart of many African remedies and folklore, the iconic Baobab is often referred to as the “Tree of Life.”

The beauty of Madagascar’s giant Baobab trees
Photo: Beth Moon

The 80-plus foot trees have a circumference of 108 feet. They also feature on a 250-meter path called the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar’s Menabe region. The tree is famous for producing surreal white, bat-pollinated flowers as well.

“A Caliban of a tree, grizzled, distorted old goblin with the girth of a giant, the hide of a rhinoceros, twiggy fingers clutching at empty air and the disposition of a guardian angel,” once wrote the novelist Ernestine Hill about the Baobab’s immensity.

Unfortunately, the baobab trees are at risk of extinction due to climate change with more than ten thousand disappearing each year.

Categories
Animals Nature

The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork

The Shoebill Stork is your new favorite bird.  

Amazingly huge, the Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rex) may be one of the most prehistoric dinosaur looking birds alive (note: the cassowary might be the other). 

An ambush predator with a height up to 5 feet, the bird stands for long periods before engaging in a vicious attack on pray. It is known to use its bulbous shoe-shaped bill to attack crocodiles when provoked. 

However, the big bird is docile with humans — it is quite common to get into staring contest with them. 

The bird is endangered, however, with only 5,000 – 8,000 left in the world in the swamps of East-Central Africa. 

Witness the bird in all its hugeness below.

The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/shannonmstirone
The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/DeathmatchJay
The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/hollowknight
Categories
Travel

The True Size of Africa

Africa is a massive continent. But for whatever reason, map makers make it appear smaller than its “true true” size. As Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski reminds us, “the map is not the territory.” Lines are ultimately arbitrary.

Map design is deceptive. But computer-graphics designer Ka Kraise took it upon himself to ‘fight against rampant immappancy,’ in particular the popular Mercator projection originated by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 which tends to exaggerate the size of continents and countries more than others. Greenland, for instance, is 14 times larger than Africa.

As you can see above, Kraise illustrates the reality of Africa’s size, which is “larger than the USA, China, Japan, and all of Europe, combined!” The Economist revisualized Kraise’s map as well.

Kudos to Kraise for illuminating our ignorance about geographical knowledge, pointing the finger at Western and Asian students who tend to inflate the size of their countries when in actuality Africa makes everyone else look so small.

Read more in The Economist: ‘The true true size of Africa’

Categories
Animals Nature

The African Dung Beetle navigates Earth using the stars

Not sure what’s more amazing about the African dung beetle, one that it rolls immaculate balls out of other animals dung or that it navigates from home to manure piles and back via celestial cues.

“These clever insects use the polarized light of the moon to navigate in a straight line,” writes Popular Mechanics. “Their eyes cannot see individual stars but a group of stars together, like the Milky Way, is dense enough to create a luminous line for them to follow.”

Dung Beetles
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No stars, no problem! When the sun gets blocked or is directly overhead, the beetle uses its antennae to perceive wind signals. This way it can roll across the desert without getting lost.

But entomologist and photographer Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki of the Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique believes the Kheper subaeneus beetles are more interesting for what they do for mother Earth. 

Few animals are as important to the African savanna ecosystem as the dung beetles and without their thankless toil the entire ecosystem would soon collapse, covered in a thick layer of waste. 

Piotr Naskrecki

Keep in mind that the gathered feces, in which the beetle rolls into big balls, often weigh more than the beetle itself.

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Image: Supplied
Categories
Animals

Gorgeous eyelashes of the Secretarybird

The Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is your new favorite bird.

Endemic to Africa and the national bird of Sudan, the Secretarybird looks like a combination of an eagle and a crane. In fact, it’s snake-stomping legs can deliver up to 43 pounds of force.

But what it’s most recognizable about this 4 foot terrestrial bird of prey is its beautiful, elongated eyelashes and eyelash-like feathers.

Don’t be ashamed to admit if the Secretarybird has better eyelashes than you.

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Categories
Animals Nature

The beautiful yet feisty Lilac-breasted roller bird, Africa’s most colorful bird

The rainbow of different colors on the lilac-breasted roller bird are gorgeous.

Native to sub-Saharan Africa and the national bird of both Botswana and Kenya, the bird is known to perch on tree tops by the roadside so it can pounce on rodents and insects moving about on the ground.

Multicolored and aggressive — especially when intruders get too close to its nest — these birds are also renown for their rolling flight pattern that sees them dip and dive from high in the sky in torpedo-like motion.

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