Where do elephant shrews live?
The four species of giant elephant shrew prefer to live in forests, closed-canopy woodlands, and thickets, usually with a floor densely covered by leaf litter. The checkered elephant shrew is found in Central Africa; the golden-rumped elephant shrew is endemic to Kenya; the grey-faced shrew is confined to two forests in Tanzania; and the black and rufous elephant shrew is found in East Africa. Smaller elephant shrew species can be found in the uplands of Southern, Eastern, and Northwestern Africa in dry forests, scrub, savannas, and open country covered by sparse shrubs of grass.
Tags: DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, East Africa
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What is an elephant shrew?
Elephant shrews are not, in fact, shrews. Recent evidence suggests that they are more closely related to a group of African mammals that includes elephants, sea cows, and aardvarks. Elephant shrews (also called sengis) are represented by a single family, the Macroscelididae, including four genera and 19 living species.
They take their name from their long, pointed head and very long, mobile, trunk-like nose. They have long, slim legs, a characteristic hunchbacked posture, and a long tail. A gland on the underside of the tail produces a strong scent used to mark territories. This musky smell apparently serves as a deterrent against many carnivores.
Elephant shrews like bugs.
The elephant shrew eats invertebrates like ants, termites, beetles, spiders, millipedes, and worms. Unlike many other small mammals, the elephant shrew feeds during daylight.
They live in couples.
Elephant shrews form pairs that live in a common territory of several acres, but they are seldom together. They do, however, keep track of each other's whereabouts through scent markings.
They are not friendly toward strangers.
They are intolerant of close neighbors, and should one trespass into the territory, it will be violently evicted, chased out by the male if the intruder is another male or by the female if it is female. Aggressive encounters involve screaming, sparring, snapping, and kicking, all of which can happen so rapidly that it appears to be a blur of animals tumbling on the forest floor.
The young are most vulnerable when leaving their parents.
Elephant shrews give birth four or five times a year. The fully haired newborn remains hidden for the first three weeks and then follows the mother for about a week. After weaning and becoming independent, the offspring remains in the parents’ territory for another six weeks. By that time, it is almost adult size and leaves to establish its own territory. This is the most vulnerable time for elephant shrews—those that survive and manage to set up a territory will likely live only up to four years.