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Streaked tenrecs (Hemicentetes semispinosus) are small, spiny rodents similar to hedgehogs in appearance. Originating from Madagascar, they make up a tiny fraction of the exotic pet market. Generally, owning a tenrec is not illegal. They're reasonably easy to keep. But you may have difficulty finding one to bring home as your new animal friend.
The Tenrec Attitude
Tenrecs are not overly friendly pets. They don't necessarily mind being handled, but they don't crave human attention like many more-aptly-called "pets" do. If they're handled gently and regularly as pups, they're more likely to respond well to human interaction. When a streaked tenrec feels threatened, its natural reaction is to flex out its spines and charge repeatedly, stabbing the predator. Streaked tenrecs bite as a means of defense. Tenrecs are unique among mammals because they can use stridulation to communicate -- they lift their spines and rub them together to make a hissing, scraping sound. Tenrecs often stridulate as a warning before charging or biting.
The Difficulty of Finding a Tenrec
Tenrecs can be found only on the private exotic pet market. Lowland streaked tenrecs are even more uncommon on the pet market because they're not a species of tenrec commonly bred as pets. Because tenrecs won't be found in traditional pet stores, it will take some legwork to acquire one. Make sure your tenrec comes from a reputable pet dealer or breeder who has gone through the proper legal channels to obtain their animals or who breeds them ethically. Tenrecs don't breed readily in captivity. They produce only one to two litters per year, with one to four pups per litter. In addition, it can be difficult to find a veterinarian who understands these quirky creatures -- tenrecs are a highly uncommon pet originating from another part of the world.
Habitat for a Tenrec
Tenrecs live in much the same habitat as hedgehogs. They're insectivores that eat beetles, worms, mealworms and other similar invertebrates. A cage or container of at least 3 feet by 3 feet is enough space for a tenrec. Tenrecs like to climb, so ideally their habitat will accommodate this tendency. Bridges, logs and running wheels are good toys for exercise. A pet tenrec needs soft bedding like shredded cotton fabric in which to dig its burrow. Tenrecs are latrine animals and will designate one corner of their habitat for elimination.
Streaked tenrecs are unusual among tenrecs because they form social groups. They live in burrows with their families, sometimes 20 living together. Because they're social creatures, yours may fare better if you keep more than one. Most tenrec species are nocturnal, but the lowland streaked tenrec is active during the day and night. Tenrecs are inactive, eating very little, during winter. A tenrec's idea of winter is anything under 70 degrees F. These rainforest animals ideally live in temperatures between 75 and 89 F.
Legality of Ownership
The country of Madagascar struggles to combat the illegal pet trade, which exploits local animal collectors and damages the ecosystem. The most ecologically responsible way to acquire a tenrec is through a reputable breeder based in the United States. Regarding legality of having such an animal in your home, most municipalities have no laws that apply specifically to tenrecs. However, tenrecs may fall under general exotic pets laws. Discover your local exotic pet laws before acquiring an animal.
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