Malayan water shrew (Chimarrogale hantu)

Malayan water shrew female, paratype specimen
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Malayan water shrew fact file

Malayan water shrew description

GenusChimarrogale (1)

This little-known, water-dwelling animal has a body modified for an aquatic life (3). While it is relatively large for a shrew (3), the body and head, with the long, pointed nose characteristic of all shrews (4), are streamlined (2). The short, dense fur, which is dark grey on the back, sometimes with a brownish tinge, and pale grey or white on the underside (5), is somewhat water repellent (3). Occasional silver-tipped hairs are found throughout the coat, and the long tail is dark brown (5). The eyes of the Malayan water shrew are tiny, and the small ears can be sealed with a flap of skin when underwater. The feet are fringed with stiff hairs, an adaptation which aids propulsion when the shrew is kicking through the water (3).

Also known as
Asiatic water shrew, Hantu water shrew.
Head-body length: 8 – 12 cm (2)
Tail length: 6 – 10 cm (2)
30 g (2)

Malayan water shrew biology

Water shrews belonging to the genus Chimarrogale are reportedly competent underwater swimmers, and feed on insects, aquatic larvae, small crustaceans and fish found in their forest stream habitat (3). Like many other water shrews, the Malayan water shrew regularly grooms its fur, spreading skin oils throughout the coat in order to maintain its water-repellent properties (2).


Malayan water shrew range

The Malayan water shrew has only been recorded in Peninsular Malaysia, although it is possible that its range extends into southern Thailand (1).


Malayan water shrew habitat

Inhabits streams in tropical mountain forest (6), probably up to altitudes of 3,300 metres (7).


Malayan water shrew status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Malayan water shrew threats

The little-known Malayan water shrew depends on clear mountain streams for its survival, and so water pollution poses a threat to this species existence. Deforestation increases the amount of sediment that is washed into streams, degrading the quality of the Malayan water shrew’s habitat (3). In addition, Malayan water shrews are sometimes caught in fish traps as they forage underwater (7).


Malayan water shrew conservation

The Malayan water shrew’s presence in the Ulu Langat Forest Reserve and Temengor Forest Reserve may offer a little protection (1) (5). In 2005, Ulu Langat Forest Reserve was declared part of a State Heritage Park, which, although illegal logging still occurs, is hoped to prevent further human encroachment (5). A conservation action plan for all Eurasian insectivores and tree shrews, including the Malayan water shrew, was complied by IUCN in 1995. The plan recommended that this species should be the subject of an immediate investigation, starting within the Ulu Langat Forest Reserve, before carrying out surveys elsewhere in the region. The results of such surveys would help inform a management plan for this species and its habitat (7).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the Malayan water shrew see:



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Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
  2. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walkers Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. EDGE of Existence (February, 2008)
  6. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  7. Stone, D. (1996) Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews: Status, Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switerzland.

Image credit

Malayan water shrew female, paratype specimen  
Malayan water shrew female, paratype specimen

© Samuel T. Turvey

Samuel T. Turvey


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