A ‘recent’ (anagram of Tenrec) visit by Sandra Hanks-Benoiton and her pet tenrec (Tang in Kreol) had the Junior Wildlife club members buzzing. “Tiny’ who is growing less so by the day was the ‘centre’ (also an anagram of his species) of attention and amused the children with his acrobatics and charming behaviour. Tenrecs are endemic to Madagascar and are one of only a few mammal species in Seychelles.
We learnt a lot about tenrecs and the children were told that tenrecs in Seychelles were most likely introduced by early settlers as a food item, Unlike Mauritius, Madagascar and Reunion, here in Seychelles we don’t tuck into tang. Characterised as a disgusting and dangerous invasive species, these small insectivores garner little sympathy as they rise from their months-long torpid state and most that are seen are flattened road kill. They have taken the rap for everything from ruining gardens to wiping out giant millipedes on Mahé, but how accurate those accusations and what benefits the little critters provide seem to go unquestioned. Though they may accurately be blamed for reducing the number of endemic frog species, given the number of introduced animals — rats, cats, dogs, goats, humans etc. — wreaking havoc on our natives, the tang is an interloper with rather minor negative impact. In fact they eat rats, snails and centipedes and are rather cute.
Hearty, robust, and primitive little animals as they are, they aren’t subject to diseases and unlike rats aren’t known to carry leptospirosis and in fact make very good pets. In the UK and the USA people are importing tenrecs as pets where the prices range from $500 for a “pet only” animal to $1400 or more for a pedigreed breeding pair.
In future the children in the Wildlife club will be encouraging their parents to watch out for these creatures on the roads.