The giant elephant shrew

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The giant elephant shrew

After the giant oarfish, the mantis shrimp and the kakapo, Jelle Hoogenboom introduces us to an Anonymous Animal very close to his heart. His favourite animal on earth, so to say. But... picking a favourite animal can be a tough job for animal admirers, Jelle can tell.

Every time I see my 5 year old niece, we play a game called ‘name your favourite animals’. It always starts with meerkats, naturally. Is there one animal on this planet more fun than the meerkat? But Yente likes a lot more animals. ‘Do you know what also is my favourite? The prairie dog, because people think they are meerkats, but they’re not! And what about puffins?' And the hagfish, and the roadrunner… But dear Yente, do you know what my favourite animal is? The giant elephant shrew.

There are a million things I like about the giant elephant shrew. The name alone! In Dutch, we call it a 'slurfhondje', little trunk dog. Try to say that with a grumpy face. Grumbleslurfhondjegrumble. I can’t do it.

And it is so fun to watch. It has a cute wiggly nose and two eyes so big you can drown in them. Here you can see one yawning. And the colours! Red as a blood orange with a deep blue back.

But the greatest thing about 'slurfhondjes' is how surprised people are when they see one for the first time. The elephant shrew doesn’t look like any other animal! Certainly not like a dog. It doesn’t even wag its tail.

They are called that way because they vaguely look like a shrew with a trunk, but it has nothing to do with shrews. In fact, scientists even say that it is more closely related to elephants. Still it’s only somewhat related to them, like a very distant cousin.

Want to see them live? Rotterdam Zoo has a pair, next to the pancake tortoise. That also happens to be one of my favourite animals.

Illustration: Mina Milk