The Other Mauritius – Another doppleganger

This was not the only species of tenrec that we saw.  Darting around some nights we could see this smaller grey tenrec, again with a very pronounced snout, but this time a thin smooth coat of fur and a long rodent like tail.  This was the Shrew tenrec and was much more shy about being in our presence.  He would sniff around in the semi dark behind the laundry space, then if we were lucky we might see him dash along the skirting board of the car port before hopping through the wall spaces into the garden.  But one day we did more or less catch him.  Mike loved his nut snacks.  He would buy big tins of them and scoop up handfuls to go with his beer.  But some nights he would go to bed and absent mindedly leave the tin on the floor next to his chair, lid off, and one morning we found our tenrec friend having a feeding frenzy inside the tin.  Again the convergent evolution was astonishing – like so many rodents, the tenrec had filled its cheeks with as many nuts as it could carry.  But he realised he was cornered so despite being in full view of three grown men peering down into the tin, he just stayed stock still and hoped we would not notice him.

One day I had been tapping away at the computer at the dining table and the others were up in their respective rooms working away too.  I needed to stretch and walk away from the screen so headed out into the front garden.  On the grass I noticed a small grey creature stumbling across the blades of grass.  I went up close and saw it was another tenrec, of the same species as the nut guzzling one.  I called the others down to see it. It was clearly a pup – we were not sure if it could actually see; it tottered unsteadily across the grass, seemed surprised by every obstruction its snout came in contact with, and when it came across the step up onto our car port and tried the ascent dropped down into the grass a couple of times before changing its mind.  The snout itself seemed to be its only guide and because it was pretty much unaware of our presence and was walking slowly, we had time to get a proper look at it.  Proportional to the rest of the animal’s body, the snout was enormous and covered from its tip to the eyes in pits and hairs that must have been so sensitive to every taste, smell and solid body it came across.

It finally scrambled its way up on to our patio, but seeing that there was nothing for it here we tried to guide it back to the bushes in the garden.  What its history was we could only guess; somehow it was a baby that had decided to leave its mother’s nest, but once away from familiar smells had become disorientated and wandered far from its home.  The creature was now out in the open and at peril from a number of threats – plenty of birds could easily make a meal of it, cats or dogs would snap it up, or it may just perish from heat exhaustion or thirst in no time at all, or sheer hunger if it did not find any food soon.

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