All new animal species discovered in Africa

This little fellow is a sengi, or giant elephant shrew, but his particular species has never been seen before. Photographed in eastern Kenya, this newly discovered creature is one of perhaps many undiscovered species hiding in Kenya's remote coastal forests.

As a genus, the elephant shrews are small, insect-eating creatures found only in Africa, but their ancestry is very unusual. Despite their diminutive size, they are actually related to elephants, not shrews, and even manatees are a closer relation than shrews. This is the eighteenth species of sengi to be discovered.

A fellow of the Zoological Society of London first spotted the creature while exploring Kenya's isolated northeastern coast forests. She didn't recognize the species, which prompted the Society and the Kenya Wildlife Surface to set up camera traps around the area, in the hopes of getting a good look at the mysterious creature. The photo you see up top is the result of that work, and it's enough to confirm that, yes, this is an entirely new species.

Galen Rathbun of the California Academy of Sciences explained why this is such an exciting find, and what challenges lay ahead:

"With their ancient and often misunderstood ancestry, their monogamous mating strategies, and their charismatic flexible snouts, they are captivating animals. It is always exciting to describe a new species - a necessary precursor for ensuring that the animals are protected.

Indeed, members of the Zoological Society are emphasizing the importance of protecting these coastal forests. They had long been inaccessible due to nonexistent infrastructure and security concerns, but recent development projects have endangered the long-term survival of the forests. With even more new species lurking in the forests, waiting to be discovered, the hope is that the forests can be protected from this encroachment.

[Zoological Society of London via BBC News]