Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec

ORDER: Insectivora

FAMILY: Afrosoricidae

GENUS: Echinops

SPECIES: telfairi

Head and body length is 140-180 mm. There is no external tail. Adult weight ranges from 110 to 250 grams. Coloration is variable, ranging from an almost white condition to a very dark color resulting from more intense melanin deposition in the spines. Upper parts are covered with dense, sharp, and bristly spines that extend from the forehead to the tail. The muzzle, limbs, and underparts are covered with scanty soft hair. There are many whiskers on the face and their five-toed feet have claws. Females have 4 - 6 pairs of mammae. They have 32 teeth. Sexes cannot be differentiated externally.

Arid parts of southern and southwestern Madagascar, such as dry forests, scrub, cultivated areas, dry coastal regions and semi-desert.

Omnivorous. Forages in the trees and on the ground for a variety of animal food in the wild.

Nocturnal. Goes into a state of torpor for 3-5 months during the dry season when food is scarce. Dens in tree cavities and the location of its nests indicates considerable arboreal ability. They exhibit social tolerance; occasionally several adults have been found estivating together. Males may be highly aggressive toward one another however. Communication is by tactile, chemical, and a few auditory signals. Mating takes place in October when the adults emerge from torpor and births take place in December or January. (Prior to giving birth and while raising young, the female no longer tolerates the male in her nest.) Gestation lasts 42-49 days. Litters usually contain five to seven young. The young weigh about 8 grams at birth, open their eyes by their 9th day, and are independent at 30-35 days. They are sexually mature after they complete their first dry season torpor. Maximum recorded life span in captivity is 13 years.

For defense, this animal will roll into a protective ball of spines that point in every direction. A well developed panniculus carnosus muscle underlies the skin which causes the spines to erect when it rolls into ball. Sharp toenails and agility help them in their arboreal existence.

Tenrecs constitute a diverse group of insectivores confined to the island of Madagascar. In habits and outward appearance they resemble hedgehogs, moles, shrews, and muskrats. The male is stimulated by the odor of the female during the mating season to produce a milky white substance from glands near the eyes. Our tenrec has had this secretion even without the presence of a female, perhaps due to excitement. When our tenrec sleeps, his body temperature drops and he feels very cool to the touch. Evidently they have a daily period of energy-saving torpor even when they are not estivating.

1 Male. This animal is used in our Education Zoomobile program and is not not viewable by the public.

Not listed as endangered. Listed as a species of Least Concern by IUCN.


  1. Fahey, Bridget. 1999. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan. Internet
  2. Lawlor, T.E. Handbook of the Orders of Families of Living Mammals.
  3. Novak, Ronald & John Paradisio. 1983. Walker
  4. Preston-Mafham, Ken. 1991. Madagascar, A Natural History. Facts on File, New York, p.131.