Spiked like a hedgehog, striped like a bee - these incredibly rare tenrecs has arrived at Chester Zoo.
A quartet of the fascinating mammals, which use a quill on their back like a violin to communicate, have joined the zoo’s ranks.
Because they cannot see very well, they also use the sound of clicking their tongue to navigate the world around them.
Native to Madagascar, their tropical habitat is under threat from deforestation.
But the lowland streaked tenrecs are so rare keepers at Chester are caring for them behind the scenes.
It is thought they are the only ones of their species to be found in any of the world’s leading zoos.
Small mammals team manager Dave White said: “Lowland streaked tenrecs are spectacularly peculiar and have some incredible traits.
“If they need to communicate with one another they have special quills on their backs which they brush together to produce high pitched squeaks, much like a violinist rubbing their bow across their violin strings.
“They are the only mammals in the world known to do this.”
Lowland streaked tenrecs are highly social and live in family groups.
They have very delicate jawbones and can only eat soft-bodied insects such as worms and beetle larvae and a small amount of fruit.
Dave said: “Relatively little is known the about tenrecs and they are part of a highly threatened wider taxonomic group.
“The loss of a tenrec would mean the loss of millions of years of evolution and a huge amount of scientific knowledge we’re yet to uncover about these unique mammals.
“There is a vast amount to learn so the skills our keepers will develop by caring for the species here will be very important and could help conservation efforts in the longer term.”
If you are intrigued by the tenrecs another species - the lesser hedgehog tenrec, can be found in the fruit bat forest exhibit at Chester.
For more information about Chester Zoo and its conservation work visit the website here.
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