Sao Tome shrew (Crocidura thomensis)

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Sao Tome shrew fact file

Sao Tome shrew description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderEulipotyphla
FamilySoricidae
GenusCrocidura (1)

The São Tomé shrew is a very rarely seen species, and as a result, detailed information about this animal’s appearance is hard to come by. The only detailed descriptions are of a male individual captured in 1982, nearly 100 years after its discovery (2). The São Tomé shrew has dark brown fur covering its body, a long, pink tail and feet, and long hind legs, thought to be for jumping or climbing (2).  Small, dark eyes peer out from amongst the facial fur, the ears are large and forward-facing, and the snout is unusually long and bears pale whiskers (2).

Also known as
Sao Tomé shrew, São Tomé shrew.
Size
Head-body length: 8.4 cm (2)
Tail length: 8.8 cm (2)
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Sao Tome shrew biology

Very little is known about this rare shrew. The majority of sightings suggest it is a solitary mammal for most of its life, consistent with the behaviour of other species of shrew (2). Multiple individuals have been caught together and there have been observations of two shrews chasing one another, but these occurrences most likely happened during the mating season or during a territorial dispute (2).

The long hind legs, which may indicate the shrew’s ability to jump, coupled with its long tail, suggest that the São Tomé shrew could be an effective climber (2). Evidence suggests that the São Tomé shrew is an opportunistic predator with a highly diverse diet(2). The long snout likely evolved in order to enable access to small insects and invertebrates in rock crevices and small holes (2).

The discovery of dead juveniles in a nest in December 1971 is some of the only evidence currently recorded of breeding patterns in the São Tomé shrew (2).

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Sao Tome shrew range

The São Tomé shrew is found only on the island of São Tomé, one of the two islands that make up the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe. São Tomé covers an area of just 857 square kilometres and is located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the west coast of Gabon (2).

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Sao Tome shrew habitat

The São Tomé shrew typically inhabits moist montane tropical forests (1). As is common in many Crocidura species, the São Tomé shrew is tolerant of human activity and has also been found close to human settlements (2). It is thought to occur at altitudes between 75 and 1,200 metres (2).

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Sao Tome shrew status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Sao Tome shrew threats

The São Tomé shrew is threatened primarily by deforestation and habitat degradation (1). Ever since the Portuguese settled on the island in 1479, large areas of forest have been lost as land was converted for agriculture, such as sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations (2) (3). More recent deforestation is attributable to the construction of houses and gardens(1). Today, it is largely the remote and inaccessible areas of forest that remain untouched (3).

Invasive animal species have been both intentionally and unintentionally introduced to the island since its colonisation. These species include both domestic and feral pigs, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, weasels, civets, rats and mice (4). Rats and mice have similar niches to the shrew and so compete for resources, as well causing an increase in predatory bird populations (4), while weasels, civets and mongooses prey on shrews (4). Although not the sole cause of the decline in the São Tomé shrew population, it is thought that the impacts of these invasive species may act in concert with habitat destruction, to leave the São Tomé shrew in a perilous position (4).

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Sao Tome shrew conservation

As extremely little is known about this species there is a great need for studies to establish its abundance and distribution, and to better understand the threats it faces (1). There are currently no direct conservation measures in place aimed at the protection or management of the São Tomé shrew (1).

It is possible, although not certain, that the shrew may occur within the newly designated National Parkarea (Parque Natural Ôbo de São Tomé Príncipe), which covers around 85 percent of the island’s primary forest (3). However, limited resources and the absence of active conservation work at ground level has meant that these forest areas are still subject to the same illegal hunting and resource exploitationas unprotected areas (3).

The discovery of oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea will bring rapid economic growth in the near future. This means that better management and protection of National Park areas and active conservation efforts are more important now than ever if the habitat of the São Tomé shrew is to be preserved( 3).

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

To learn about wildlife conservation on São Tomé see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Feral
Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, worms and spiders.
Montane
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Territorial
Describes an animal that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Dutton, J. and Haft, J. (1996) Distribution, ecology and status of an endemic shrew, Crocidura thomensis, from Sao Tome. Oryx, 30(3): 195-201.
  3. Dallimer, M., King, T. and Atkinson, R.J. (2009) Pervasive threats within a protected area: conserving the endemic birds of São Tomé, West Africa. Animal Conservation, 12(3): 209-219.
  4. Dutton, J. (1994) Introduced mammals in São Tomé and Príncipe: possible threats to biodiversity. Biodiversity and Conservation, 3(9): 927-938.
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Image credit

Sao Tome shrew close up  
Sao Tome shrew close up

© Ricardo Lima

Ricardo Lima
rfaustinol@gmail.com

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