Zoo Atlanta will close early on Sat., April 13 for Members Only Night. Gates close at 4 p.m., grounds close at 5:30 p.m. 

Generic filters
Exact matches only
9:30 am - 5:30 pm

We are not hedgehogs!

Hi, we’re Tiako and Lance.

We are (drumroll please)…

Lesser Madagascar hedgehog tenrecs. Wow, what a big name for small creatures such as ourselves, but what’s in a name?

We are lesser hedgehog tenrec, but did you know there is a greater hedgehog tenrec? Although we have similar names, we are not closely related. We are typically smaller than the greater tenrecs. We can reach a maximum size of 7 inches. The greater hedgehog tenrecs can reach a maximum size of 9 inches. There is not much of a size difference, but it made a difference to the scientist who gave us our common names. We dunno. We’re just tenrecs.

As our name suggests, our species lives in Madagascar, an island off the west coast of Africa. In fact, there are about 30 species of tenrec that come in different sizes and colors that call Madagascar their home. You should check out the lowland streaked tenrec. Talk about a crazy hairdo! Tenrecs have evolved to live and survive in different environments throughout Madagascar. We prefer the arid southern regions of Madagascar and can be found in dry forests, coastal areas, scrub, and semi-deserts.

The most important fact to know about our name is that we are NOT hedgehogs! We are tenrecs. T-E-N-R-E-C. Through a process called convergent evolution, we managed to independently evolve similar features as the hedgehog. We can understand the confusion because evolution is a tricky subject. Those features that tenrecs and hedgehogs possess are called spines. We use these spines for protection against other animals. When we feel threatened, we ball up and stick out our spines. Predators will find it difficult to eat animals that come equipped with their own built-in defense. Now you can remember, Sonic isn’t the only creature with spikey hair.

There is more to us than just a name. We are also nocturnal, or awake at night. We have a great sense of smell and whiskers that help us travel in the dark to find our food. Speaking of food, we are insectivores, which means we eat, well, insects as our primary food source. When the environment outside is frightful (not enough food or the temperature is not to our liking), we can enter a state of hibernation called torpor. During torpor, we have superpowers that allow us to lower our body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. This change in our metabolism allows us to conserve energy until appropriate temperatures and food are available. We basically get to sleep for a short duration of time until we get hungry. Then, we reverse our metabolism and search for our next meal.

Well, it is time to head back into our tree cavity to take a nap. It is wintertime and we have the winter sleepiness. Have a great holiday and until next time!

Jenny B.
Keeper I, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl