Lesser hedgehog tenrecs live in dry forested areas of southern and southwestern Madagascar.
The Maryland Zoo features lesser hedgehog tenrecs among its Animal Ambassadors, which are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.
Lesser hedgehog tenrecs spend their days sleeping and their nights gobbling up insects along with other food. They look like miniature hedgehogs but are not closely related, despite the name. They are solitary animals that forage alone, except for mothers with young. They scurry around on the ground and in trees, and use their sharp claws for tree-climbing. Their eyesight is poor but they rely on excellent senses of hearing and touch to navigate their night-time world. For three to five months during the dry season, if food becomes particularly scarce, these animals are able to enter a state of inactivity known as torpor.
Lesser and greater hedgehog tenrecs are the only tenrec species completely covered in spines. The spines are modified hairs.
Females give birth to litters of 1 to 10 young after a gestation period of about 7 weeks. The young weigh only about one-quarter of an ounce at birth but develop quickly and become independent in about one month.
When threatened, lesser hedgehog tenrecs curl up in a ball, leaving only their sharp spines exposed. As effective a deterrent as this may be, the tiny animals are still vulnerable to predation by birds of prey, snakes, and some other carnivores.
Lesser hedgehog tenrecs are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. The species is thought to be widely distributed with a stable population.