Weird and Wonderful #5 – Elephant Shrew
Now have a look at these little fellows…
These tiny mammals get their name from their snout, which at first glance, resembles the trunk of an elephant. 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.
Elephant shrews mainly eat invertebrates, such as insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and earthworms. An elephant shrew uses its nose to find prey and uses its tongue to flick small food into its mouth, much like an anteater. Eating large prey can pose somewhat of a challenge for an elephant shrew. For example, a giant elephant shrew struggling with an earthworm must first pin its prey to the ground with a forefoot. Then, turning its head to one side, it chews pieces off with its cheek teeth, much like a dog chewing a bone. This is a sloppy process, and many small pieces of worm drop to the ground; these are simply flicked up with the tongue. Some elephant shrews also feed on small amounts of plant matter when available, especially new leaves, seeds, and small fruits.
Female elephant shrews give birth to more than 1 litter of babies every year. The baby elephant shrews are born after a gestation period that can be between 1 and 2 months long. Baby elephant shrews are well-developed when they are first born but remain in the nest for a few days before they begin to head in the big wide world.
What do you think of the Elephant Shrew? Our vote is wonderfully cute!