Some curious creatures have given birth at Paignton Zoo.

Despite their name, common tenrecs - from Madagascar – are rarely seen in zoos. This litter of four is the Zoo’s second - mother Felicia came from the first litter, born at the Zoo just last year. The four were born on 3rd April but can now be spotted coming out for mealworms with the adults.

Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “Tenrecs are real oddballs. Not many collections keep them, which is a shame, because they are pretty amazing. They have both fur and spines and resemble hedgehogs, but are only distantly related to them. It’s thought that they share a common ancestry with aardvarks, elephants and sea cows! They are also known as giant tail-less tenrecs – although they aren’t that giant and they do have tails!”

The species arrived at Paignton Zoo in February 2011. The new arrivals bring the number at the Zoo to ten. It’s thought that Paignton Zoo is the only UK collection with the species. They can be found near to Amphibian Ark, which is home to a range of other Madagascan species.

Common tenrecs (Tenrec ecaudatus) are found on Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands. They fill the ecological niche occupied elsewhere by hedgehogs, mice, shrews, opossums and otters. They are the largest land-dwelling species of tenrec, growing up to 39 centimetres (15 inches) in length and weighing up to 2.5 kilos (over 5 pounds). They are hunted as food on Madagascar.

If threatened, giant tenrecs will scream, erect their spines, jump and bite.

They build nests and can give birth to litters of up to 32 young, with an average litter between 15 and 20. The young have black and white stripes. They eat anything from small invertebrates to frogs and mice.

While some tenrecs are found in central Africa, they are most diverse on Madagascar, which has around 30 species.

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