WATCH: Cute sengi shrews born at Chester Zoo – Guess their closest cousins | Nature | News

Hardly bigger than table tennis balls, these adorable creatures have a huge role to play in helping conservationists save endangered species.

The two balls of mischief have been called Ping and Pong by zookeepers are who studying them because of their amazing genetic links.

A look at their strange noses gives the biggest clue to their closest living relatives, one of the most threatened animals on Earth – the elephant.

Yet the sengis’ evolutionary tree also shows they are also distantly related to aardvarks and manatees.

The twins made their debut on Endangered Species Day at Chester Zoo after being born earlier this month.

Even when they are fully grown, the sengis will weigh less than two ounces (45grams) and measure four inches from tail to snout.

In the wild, they are found across a wide range of forest, desert and savannah landscapes in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

There are 19 known species of sengi and one was discovered as recently as 2014.

By unravelling their complex life histories can help in the understanding and conserving of many other threatened animals, say experts at Chester Zoo.

Dave White, small mammals team manager at the zoo, said: “They may be tiny but our new sengi duo are hugely fascinating creatures, whose closest living relative is eight thousand times their size. 

“They were once thought to be linked to the shrew but their genetic makeup is actually closer to that of an elephant. The giveaway is their amazing trunk-like snout.

“Sengis are extremely energetic little critters and have a top speed of 18mph. 

“If scaled up, they would actually be twice as quick as the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah. They’re incredibly charismatic and one of the very few mammals that pair up for life.

“Breeding these small mammals here gives us a rare opportunity to learn more intriguing details about their reproductive ecology and what makes these remarkable animals tick. 

“Collecting information like this, and developing skills along…

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