The Black and Rufous Giant Elephant Shrew
Click the picture above or here to view a video of the live Elephant Shrews on display at the Peabody!
This pair of brothers were born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2007. Active most of the day, they spend their time foraging and gathering leaf litter for nests. In the wild, each elephant shrew can build six or seven nests in its home range, where it sleeps, cares for offspring and evades predators.
Elephant shrews eat beetles, termites, spiders and ants, and supplement their diet with fruits and seeds. In captivity they are fed crickets, mealworms and dry cat food supplemented with peanut oil.
Elephant Shrew Diversity
Elephant shrews are neither elephants nor shrews. The 16 living species of elephant shrew all have relatively large ears and eyes, a rat-like hairless tail, and long, thin legs that make them speedy runners.
Individuals of the four species of “giant” elephant shrew weigh in at about one pound (540 grams), while those of the other species are much smaller — the short-eared elephant shrew weighs less than two ounces (about 35 grams). Elephant shrews get their common name from their long, mobile trunk-like nose, with which they explore the world. Biologists also refer to these animals by their African Bantu name, “sengis.”
The Distribution of Elephant Shrews
Elephant shrews are found throughout the forests, savannas, scrublands and deserts of southern Africa and parts of North Africa. The Black and Rufous Giant Elephant Shrew lives only in forests and dense woodlands of eastern Kenya and Tanzania, habitat that is rapidly disappearing because of human activity. As a result, this extraordinary animal is at high risk of extinction in the wild.