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Sengis according to MammalMAP

Believe it or not, according to most biologists the sengi (family Macroscelididae), or elephant shrew, is related to the elephant, and not the shrew, as previously believed because of their superficial resemblance. Sengis are grouped together in the superorder Afrotheria with elephants and other African mammals like the sea cows, hyraxes, tenrecs, golden moles and aardvarks.

17 recognised species of sengis are spread out over 6 African countries exclusively, and can be found in almost any type of habitat, from thick forests and woodlands to savannahs and deserts, depending on the species.

Even though body proportions are quite similar and size can vary from 22 to 30 cm, the sengi’s weight can range from 25 grams for Macroscelides species to 700 grams forRhynchocyon species, which includes the largest as well as the most colourful sengis – like the one pictured above. They are called elephant shrews because of their long, trunk-like noses, which they use to smell out those tasty creepy crawlies. The sengi has long, slim limb bones adapted for running, a hunchbacked posture and a long tail. The diet of a sengi is made up almost entirely out of insects like grubs, spiders, beetles, termites and ants, and unlike many other small mammals, most species are diurnal and spend their waking hours during dusk and dawn,  out and about munching yummy bugs. Elephant shrews are monogamous and mate for life! They don’t actually spend that much time together, but have scented trails to check up on each other’s whereabouts. These trails are also used to easily escape their predators, which may include birds of prey, big lizards and snakes (watch the video here!). Sengis are not very friendly towards strangers, and will perform all kinds of dramatic acts including screaming, snapping and kicking to drive away the unwanted neighbours. Females give birth four or five times a year to fully haired, well developed new-borns, after a gestation period of about 2 months.

According to the IUCN Red List of mammals, most of the sengi species are considered as ‘Least Concern’. Three of the Elephantulus species are listed as ‘Data Deficient’ while all four species of giant sengis are at risk (one ‘Endangered’, two ‘Vulnerable’ and another ‘Near Threatened’). Forest fragmentation is the main threat in all cases, while subsistence hunting for food may also play a role in some areas.

Interesting fact:

Sometimes called the jumping shrew, some sengi species, like the checkered elephant shrew, can leap almost one metre into the air!

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