Lesser Tenrecs are amazing little animals with some pretty unique attributes uncommon amongst most popular pets.
If you're considering adding a lesser tenrec to your own family you'll want to be aware of all these weird quirks. For some animals, hibernation can be a severe health concern, whereas for others its a completely safe and natural process.
So lets jump right in!
Do Lesser Tenrecs Hibernate?
Many animals around the world use a form of hibernation in order to survive the harsh winter months. During this time they are very inactive, lower their metabolic rate, and eat and drink very infrequently.
Lesser Tenrecs do enter a state of "hibernation" each year, but it is actually known as torpor. Although very similar to hibernation, the process is slightly different.
What is Torpor?
Most people have heard of hibernation, but few are familiar with torpor. But they're both very similar to one another. Both are survival tactics used by animals to conserve energy and survive the winter months.
However, hibernation is a voluntary state an animal enters whereas torpor is more of an involuntary action that happens when its environment dictates. Basically, colder temperatures and lack of food almost force them into torpor and when the climate warms, they automatically come out of it.
In the wild, lesser tenrecs enter a state of torpor up to 6 months during the cold season in Madagascar. This will be the time between May and October, but is flipped when living in the Northern Hemisphere.
During this time they will lower their body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and metabolic rate. They will be very inactive for large stretches of time, eating and drinking very infrequently.
In our experience, we generally see our lesser tenrecs enter a state of torpor for 2 - 3 months from November to January. This will greatly depend on the conditions you provide, and how long you keep them in cooler temperatures.
Is Hibernation Dangerous for Lesser Tenrecs?
If you're just learning about lesser tenrecs you might be wondering if this is something to prevent or is dangerous for them. For many animals hibernation can be incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal if allowed.
Lesser Tenrecs enter a state of torpor naturally in the wild for 3 - 6 months and is completely safe and expected while in captivity. During the winter months many owners will lower the temperature down to 65°F to mimic their natural environment.
We generally discourage a torpor response from babies in their first year, keeping temps at room temperature (74°F - 76°F). However, adults are far less sensitive to temperatures and will be perfectly safe with air temperature in the mid 60's during the winter months.
During this time they can still be held and handled, but it's best to leave them sleeping and conserve energy. If they do wake and eat, be sure they completely finish any food. It's possible they go back to sleep with half eaten food in their mouth which can cause tooth decay and oral health issues.
Just remember torpor is a completely safe and normal response for a lesser tenrec during the colder months of the year. Just be mindful of their activity during this time and monitor them when they are awake and eating.
Lesser Tenrecs are exotic animals and certainly come with their own unique behavior and quirks. Most pet owners might not be used to their animals going into a state of hibernation, or torpor, and it can be a pretty concerning when it happens.
Hopefully after everything we went over you leave here more comfortable with the entire process. Like we said, it's safe and normal, but there are a few things to mindful of as they do enter torpor.
If you do still have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us anytime. If you've done your research and decided to add a lesser tenrec to the family, you can check out all our available lesser tenrecs here.