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  • Writer's pictureDanni

Fun Fact Friday - The Lesser Tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

The Lesser Tenrec (also known as the Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec) is a gorgeous nocturnal mammal endemic to the dry deciduous forest areas of western Madagascar. Although they may be similar in appearance to a hedgehog, they are actually more closely related to shrews.

Noticeable Traits

The Lesser Tenrec is relatively smaller than the hedgehog - only growing anywhere between 6-9inches. They are stout bodied and covered in cream and dark coloured spines - they have short fur around their face and on their bellies and a slightly longer snout than that of a hedgehog!

Tenrecs unfortunately do not have the best eyesight, their eyes are very small but to make up for this they have very sensitive whiskers and prominent hearing which helps them navigate their way through the dark! Tenrecs also have what we call zalambdodont dentition which means that their molars form a V -shape.

Tenrecs (similar to birds and reptiles) have a cloaca - meaning they have no external genitalia so sexing these animals can be quite difficult! The only way to confirm 100% is through a DNA test .


The minimum sized enclosure we recommend for a Tenrec is a 36" x 24" x 18" wooden enclosure. Tenrecs can be a relatively active species throughout the night, so they would utilise the space of an even larger enclosure. Ambient temps for this animal is around 78f, so we would control and manage this through the use of a heat bulb and thermostat.

Tenrecs are surprisingly good climbers; they have quite long toes with a strong grip to allow them to climb up and hold on to branches. We would want to provide them plenty of hides, climbing opportunities, a water bowl and, most importantly, a sand bath. Hygiene across all animals is important, the tenrec uses the sand to exfoliate their skin to keep it clean and healthy.


The Lesser Tenrec is an omnivorous animal, which means that they will eat a variety of food from both plant and animal origin. Their main diet is primarily a selection of invertebrates - including meal worms, crickets, locusts and many more! We have also been offering the Tenrec we have in store a bowl of cat kibble (ferret kibble is also sufficient ) and a selection of fruit! We have been ensuring that we dust all the food with our premix of Calcium n Vitamin D3 supplements.


As with any animal, allowing your new pet to settle in before handling is important. We always advise a handling period of around 10-15 minutes twice daily with new pets. As you and your pet become more comfortable with one another, these handling periods can go on for longer. Tenrecs are relatively confident animals and can become very happy with being handled regularly. Unlike hedgehogs, tenrecs very rarely will ball up in defensiveness; their spikes aren't anywhere near as prominent as hedgehogs.


Tenrecs will often go into a state of torpor during the colder months- typically beginning September/ October until February/ March.

What is torpor? Torpor is a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal by reducing body temperature and metabolic rate - much similar to hibernation but theoretically more awake than an animal in deep hibernation. They will still come out every so often to eat and roam around. Torpor will still exist even in animals kept in captivity and at a constant temperature. During this time, you are still able to handle your animal, and the warmth of your hands may encourage them to wake up a little more; however, we wouldn't want to try and force them to be more active during this time.

It is important to allow them to enter this state of torpor and not discourage it from happening. There is no known way of preventing torpor from happening, and we do not know how the impact of preventing them from going into this state could impact their long-term health.

If you do have any questions about the tenrec please get in contact or visit our page here.



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