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family elephantulus rufescens

(East African Long-Eared Elephant Shrew)

Geographic Range

Elephantulus rufescens is restricted to Africa. They are most common in southern Africa, specifically in Nambia, the Cape province of South Africa, and extreme southern Botswana. They can also be found from southeastern Sudan and northeastern Somalia to central Tanzania (Nowak 1997). See map in media section for illustration.

Native: Ethiopian

Physical Description

Although the common name of Elephantulus rufescens is 'elephant shrew', it is not a shrew nor is it related to elephants. It gets its name from its long mobile snout, which it can move around rather like an elephant?s trunk. It uses its snout to search for worms, ants, termites and other inverterbrates. Its legs are long and thin; its hindlimbs are longer than its forelimbs, allowing it to jump and hop. It has a long tail, and large eyes and ears. It also has long, soft fur; the upper parts are sandy brown, buffy gray or buffy orange and the underparts are white, or grayish (Corbet and Hanks 1968). Mass: 25 to 60 g

Length: 170 to 310 mm


There are different estimates of the life span of these animals. Animals living in the wild might reach an age of 1 - 1 * years; those in captivity live about 3 * years. Max Lifespan In Wild: 1 to 1.5 years Expected Lifespan In Wild: 1 years (average) Max Lifespan In Captivity: 3 to 4 years Expected Lifespan In Captivity: 3 years (average)


Elephantulus rufescens have a keen sense of smell that helps them to sense food and danger. When pursued, they hide in any available shelter. They also make a series of escape routes radiating out from their nests to feeding areas so that they can quickly escape if being pursued by a predator. Few predators actually raid their nest sites perhaps because the young mature quickly and leave the nest (Smithers 1971).


Hawks, Raptors, Snakes, other carnivores

Ecosystem Roles

Elephantulus rufescens has a very limited role in the ecosystem. One reason for this is that it rarely ever creates new habitat due to the fact that it uses old, abondoned burrows and piles of leaves to build its nest.

Food Habits

The diet consists mainly of termites and ants, but also includes shoots, berries and roots (Vaughan 2000). In captivity they accept various foods, including fruits and vegetables (Nowak 1997).

Insectivore (insects); frugivore (fruit)


Elephantulus rufescens form monogamous pairs when they mate and share a territory of about 0.34 ha. The pair makes trails through this area and mate at established points they mark. These markings are made by scent-marking, including rubbing a sternal gland on the substrate and probably by urination and defecation (Koontz and Roeper 1983). Females may have several liters annually; recorded interbirth intervals range from 56 to 145 days. There is no seasonal time for reproduction- mating takes place year round (Koontz and Roeper 1983).

Breeding season: No reproductive seasonality has been observed in the wild or in captivity (Koontz and Roeper 1983).

Breeding interval: 56 to 145 days.

Number Produced: 1 to 2

Gestation Period: 57 to 65 days

Weaning: 18 to 36 days

Sexual Maturity: 50 days (average)

Year-round breeding; sexual; internal; viviparous

The pair does not spend much time together. Females are usually dominant to males. Each individual defends the mating teritory sex-specifically; males ward off males and females ward off females. Boundary encounters are characterized by drumming of one or both hind feet, ritualized gestures, and high speed chases (Rathbun 1995).


Elephantulus rufescens have a gestation period of about two months. The young are precocial, well developed at birth, covered with hair, and fairly large. . Their eyes are open at birth or soon thereafter and can walk almost immediately after they are born and thus, require minimal parental care. They are weaned by the time they are about 25 days old. At about 50 days they reach adult size, are sexually mature, and are driven from the parental territory.

Young precocial; male parental care; female parental care


Elephantulus rufescens usually live singly or in pairs, although they have been seen to also live in small colonies (Nowak 1997). They are usually diurnal; active mainly during the day, but can be nocturnal during hot weather, moonlit nights, and when threatened by diurnal predators.

A pair occupies a territory that averages 0.34 ha.

Diurnal; nocturnal; solitary; territorial


Elephantulus rufescens are found in a variety of habitats including open plains, arid lowlands, savannas, deserts, thornbush, and tropical forests. Most will take over old rodent burrows. The majority of Elephant shrews are forest dwellers that often live in burrows, ground depressions, rock crevices, termite mound crevices or under logs. Some elephant shrews construct nests on the forest floor, in which they sleep when not active. They also construct a network of paths to help them move around their territory. These trails are also used as escape routes from predators, such as snakes and small mammals.


Family Elephantulus brachyrhynchus
Family Elephantulus rufescens (East African Long-Eared Elephant Shrew)
Family Rhynchocyon chrysopygus (Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrew)

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