Tenrec, a mammal found on Madagascar and nearby islands. There are about 20 species, including the common tenrec, the streaked tenrec, and various species of rice tenrecs and long-tailed tenrecs.

Tenrecs range in length from about 1 1/2 to 15 inches (4 to 39 cm), not including the tail. The smallest species has a tail less than half an inch (1 cm) in length; the largest, 11 inches (28 cm). Most species are some shade of brown above, with lighter undersides. Many species have prickly spines covering their bodies. Some species, such as the streaked tenrec, have stripes formed by rows of yellowish spines.

Tenrecs have long snouts that they use in foraging for their food. Their diet consists mainly of such small animals as insects and worms, but they also eat plant material. They inhabit forests, grasslands, and marshes.

Tenrecs belong to the family Tenrecidae. The common tenrec is Tenrec ecaudatus; the streaked tenrec, Hemicentetes semispinosus. The rice tenrecs belong to the genus Oryzorictes; the long-tailed tenrecs, to the genus Microgale.

Where Do Tenrecs Live?

These insectivores live on only a few islands off the eastern coast of Africa. Most tenrecs are found on Madagascar (mad uh GAS kuhr), where they have lived for millions of years.

Although they live in a small area, the tenrecs have adapted to several environments. Some tenrecs live in trees. Some live in water. Others live underground as moles do.

There are different kinds of tenrecs with different characteristics. The greater hedgehog tenrec has spines and a very short tail. The shrew tenrec has a long tail and soft fur.

Why Are Tenrecs Champion Mothers?

Female tenrecs, unlike most mammals, have lots of babies at one time. They can bear more than 10 young. Some tenrecs may have 25 or more young in one litter! That’s more newborns than are born to any other mammal.

The newborns are naked and blind. Litters of tenrecs and individual animals develop at different rates. Usually, a few hours after birth, the newborn tenrecs can crawl like certain kinds of lizards. Within about 2 1/2 weeks, the babies are able to move around quickly in the nest. They begin to walk like adult tenrecs. Young tenrecs depend completely on their mother for food during the earliest weeks of their lives. The mother tenrec provides frequent and long feedings of her milk.

Later on, the baby tenrecs start to eat solid foods. The young tenrecs you see here were born in a zoo. They are sharing a helping of raw hamburger!