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Say Hello to Gherkin!

Meet Gherkin! This lovely lady is the resident northern tree shrew here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. She has lived in the Rainforest Room for over two years and, although sometimes arboreal, Gherkin spends much of her time close to the ground. Described as being particular about her space, her Animal Care Team works extra hard to make sure her home meets her needs and encourages her natural behaviors.

The northern tree shrew lives in Southeast Asia; countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula are often home to these tiny rodents. Northern tree shrews are unique in their bathroom behaviors and their relationships with other northern tree shrews. While you may think these are two very different topics, both behaviors make this species special.

Northern tree shrews have a unique relationship with a family of pitcher plants called Nepenthes. Pitcher plants are a type of carnivorous plant with large, tube-like flowers that have nectar. Their nectar attracts bugs, but those are not the only living things that enjoy this nectar, northern tree shrews will also perch on pitcher plants to find a tasty treat! This relationship between plant and animal is symbiotic, meaning both the pitcher plant and the northern tree shrew benefit. Once the northern tree shrew licks the nectar from the bottom of the leaf, they then use the pitcher plant as its own personal restroom. The pitcher plant uses the shrew’s excrement for nutrients.

Northern tree shrews are also monogamous creatures; they often pair-bond, meaning they have one partner for their entire life. Gherkin is a part of our Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. The SSP program is an initiative led by expert advisors who focus on conservation efforts toward endangered species and maximizing genetic diversity. As a member of the SSP program here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, we hope that Gherkin can find a mate to help promote genetic diversity within her species and keep the northern tree shrew here on our earth.

Northern Tree Shrew 1