Elephant Shrew

Rock Elephant Shrew (Elephantulus myurus)

Four-Toed Elephant Shrew (Petrodromus Tetradactylus)

Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)

East African Long-Eared Elephant Shrew (Elephantulus rufescens)

Short-snouted Elephant shrew (Elephantulus brachyrhynchus)

Somali Elephant Shrew (Elephantulus revoili)

Western Rock Elephant Shrew (Elephantulus rupestris)

Short-eared Elephant Shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus)

Cape elephant Shrew (Elephantulus edwardii)

Giant or Chequered Elephant Shrew (Rhynchocyon cirnei)

Black-and-rufous Elephant Shrew (Rhynchocyon petersi)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Macroscelidea
Family:    Macroscelididae
Size:    Length: 4 to 12 inches (10.1 to 30.4 cm)
Weight: 1 to 16 ounces (28 to 454 g)
Diet: Ants, termites, snails, roots, fruit and seeds
Distribution: Africa
Young:  1 to 3, once per year
Animal Predators:  Hawks, raptors, snakes and other carnivores
IUCN Status: No special status/Vulnerable/Endangered (see Conservation below for details)
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 1 year in the wild and up to 3 years in captivity



·        Elephant shrews sunbathe to increase their body temperature.

·        They are sometimes called jumping shrews.

·        They are not really shrews, nor are they related to elephants.

·        30 million-year-old elephant shrew fossils have been found dating to the early Oligocene Epoch.

·        Some scientists believe elephant shrews may be related to primates because of their large brain.



These tiny mouse-like animals vary in colour from grey to brown, and sometimes may have a combination of the two colours. They have a long nose, big eyes and ears, and long, slender limbs. 



Elephant shrews live in a variety of habitats throughout Africa, including semi-deserts, savannahs and coastal rainforests. They are absent from the Sahara region and western Africa deserts. Some species of elephant shrew live in burrows in the ground, while others nest under leaves on the forest floor. 


Feeding Habits

Elephant shrews are active during the day and use their long tongue to scoop up insects and bring them to their mouth, much as an elephant uses its trunk to scoop food. They have a long flexible nose that is useful in sniffing out insects. Shrews feed on ants and termites, and may also feed on roots, fruit and seeds.



There is no set mating season. Gestation lasts between 42 and 60 days. The young are born with fur and their eyes are open. They can follow their mother almost immediately after birth and are weaned within four weeks. Within another week, the youngsters become fully independent, although they may stay within their parents’ territory until they establish their own.  Some elephant shrews, such as golden-rumped elephant shrews, mate for life. 



When elephant shrews feel threatened, they slap their tail repeatedly on the forest ground. If they continue to feel threatened, they will  run and slap their hind legs on the ground, to help warn other shrews of the presence of a predator. Elephant shrews are extremely territorial and become irate when another shrew approaches them on their own territory. They usually walk on all four limbs, but when they want to move quickly in order to get away from danger, they jump using their powerful hind legs.



In Kenya, elephant shrews are protected within the Gedi Historical Monument. Otherwise, the habitat of the elephant shrew is shrinking due to human encroachment. According to the IUCN, the following species are classified as Vulnerable: Elephantulus edwardii, Elephantulus rupestris, Macroscelides proboscideus and Rhynchocyon cirnei. Elephantulus revoili, Rhynchocyon chrysopygus and Rhynchocyon petersi are classified as Endangered. The remaining species of elephant shrew have no special status.  













Elephant Shrew Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Vaughan, T., Ryan, J. and Czaplewski, N. (2000). Mammalogy, Fourth Edition. Orlando: Sanders College Publishing