Golden-rumped elephant-shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)

Also known as: Golden-rumped sengi
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderMacroscelidea
FamilyMacroscelididae
GenusRynchocyon (1)
SizeHead-body length: 23 - 26 cm (2)
Tail length: 21 - 23 cm (2)
Weight540 g (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN - B1+2c) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

This large elephant-shrew, or sengi (5), gains its common name for the distinctive golden coloured fur on its rump. In common with other elephant-shrews the snout is long, pointed and flexible (3), and the tail is almost naked (2). The coat is coarse but glossy and a dark reddish-brown colour apart from the yellowish/golden rump and a white tip to the tail (2). There is a 'dermal shield' of thickened skin under the sengi's rump patch that is 3 times thicker than the skin on the middle of the back (4). This shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to act as protection against the biting attacks of other males (3). The taxonomic relationship of this group has always been difficult to assess but elephant-shrews are not closely related to shrews, as their name would appear to suggest; recent molecular evidence places sengis (order Macroscelidea) in an ancient group of African mammals that also includes elephants, hyraxes and golden moles, amongst others (4).

Found along the coast of Kenya from Mombassa to the Somali border (2).

Inhabits coastal regions and found in moist, dense scrub forest and lowland semi-deciduous forest (3).

Sengis are monogamous and mate for life (3). Pairs occupy home ranges, which they defend against intruders although individuals spend the majority of their time alone within this area (4). They are diurnal, spending the night asleep in a nest constructed from leaf litter on the forest floor; carefully choosing from about six nests to ensure they remain undetected by predators (4). Mating occurs throughout the year and females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of around 42 days (3). After 2 weeks the young are fully weaned and will emerge from the nest to forage with their mother, although they are completely independent after a mere 5 days following emergence (3).

These sengis forage for invertebrates such as earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders by searching through the leaf litter on the forest floor with their flexible nose (3). These small mammals must be constantly vigilant of predators such as harrier eagles (Circus sp.), and snakes, including black mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis) and forest cobras (Naja melanoleuca), and can run at speeds of up to 25 km per hour when trying to escape (4). Elephant-shrews will alert predators that they have been spotted and their cover blown by loudly slapping their tail on the forest floor (4).

Numbers of the golden-rumped elephant-shrew are severely threatened by habitat destruction along the Kenyan coast. Forests are being relentlessly cleared for farming, development and timber collection (4). Illegal trapping of these sengis for food also occurs, although current levels are thought to be sustainable (4).

The golden-rumped sengi occurs mainly in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya (6), which receives a degree of protection from the Kenyan Wildlife Service (7).

To learn about efforts to conserve the golden-rumped elephant-shrew see:

To find out more about elephant shrews see:

Authenticated (19/8/02) by Galen Rathburn. Chair, IUCN-SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group.
http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/ASG.html

  1. UNEP-WCMC database (July, 2002)
    http://quin.unep-wcmc.org
  2. Alden, P.C., Estes, R.D., Schlitter, D., McBride, B. (1996) Field Guide, African Wildlife. Harper Collins, London.
  3. Sengi Website (August, 2002)
    http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/eshrews/
  4. Animal Diversity Web (July, 2002)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/rhynchocyon/r._chrysopygus$narrative.html
  5. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press.
  6. Galen Rathburn (20/8/02) Pers. comm.
  7. Kenyan Wildlife Service (August, 2002)
    http://www.kws.org/arabuko.html