Shrew, Giant Elephant
Despite their name, these animals are neither shrews nor insectivores. These are part of a 'catch-all' order of mammals informally called Afrotherians, which include aardvarks, tenrecs, golden moles, hyraxes, elephants, and manatees. The 'giant' elephant shrew is one of three species of larger elephant shrews. They measure about 11 inches in body length, with a 9- to 10-inch long, naked, rat-like tail. The head and front body is orange-brown, and the rear body is blue-black. The animal has a long flexible nose (hence the name, elephant shrew) and relatively large eyes and ears. It has long, thin legs adapted for rapid running and occasional jumping. Typical weight is a little over one pound.
Class: Mammal (Mammalia)
Range: East Africa, in a relatively restricted range in Kenya and Tanzania
Habitat: Deep forest from sea level to mountain slopes
Lifespan: 4 to 5 years in the wild; not determined in captivity
Wild Diet: Mostly ants, termites, crickets, plus other small invertebrates
Zoo Diet: Cat food
The elephant shrew is diurnal, spending the daylight hours hunting for food in leaf litter. Birds of prey and snakes are these shrews predators. They are monogamous and form life-long breeding pairs. Outside of breeding, however, the animals spend little time together. The elephant shrew will defend its territory against intrusions of other elephant shrews. The male will battle a male intruder, the female will battle a female. A scent gland at the base of the tail is used to mark territories and food trails. The elephant shrew has a keen sense of smell, hearing, and sight.
After a gestation period of perhaps 6 weeks, the female gives birth to a single baby that is generally well developed and covered with hair. Weaning is complete in about two weeks. The female can give birth to 4 or 5 litters a year. The most remarkable fact of the breeding relationship is the parents' monogamous attachment for life. Mating is brief and males do not assist with raising the young.
Gestation: Less then 2 months
Litter: Generally a single offspring
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
- Various names for the giant elephant shrew include the black and rufous giant elephant shrew, the Zanj elephant shrew, and the sengi (a Bantu word).
- It is believed that animals of the elephant-shrew order originated in Africa (hence the name Afrotherians), in contrast to the typical African mammals of today that actually migrated into Africa millions of years ago.