Elephantulus rufescens is restricted to Africa. They are most common in southern Africa, specifically in Nambia, the Cape province of South Africa, and extreme southern Botswana. They can also be found from southeastern Sudan and northeastern Somalia to central Tanzania (Nowak 1997). See map in media section for illustration.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Although the common name of Elephantulus rufescens is 'elephant shrew', it is not a shrew nor is it related to elephants. It gets its name from its long mobile snout, which it can move around rather like an elephant’s trunk. It uses its snout to search for worms, ants, termites and other inverterbrates. Its legs are long and thin; its hindlimbs are longer than its forelimbs, allowing it to jump and hop. It has a long tail, and large eyes and ears. It also has long, soft fur; the upper parts are sandy brown, buffy gray or buffy orange and the underparts are white, or grayish (Corbet and Hanks 1968).
Range mass: 25 to 60 g.
Range length: 170 to 310 mm.
Average basal metabolic rate: 0.317 W.
Habitat and Ecology
Elephantulus rufescens are found in a variety of habitats including open plains, arid lowlands, savannas, deserts, thornbush, and tropical forests. Most will take over old rodent burrows. The majority of Elephant shrews are forest dwellers that often live in burrows, ground depressions, rock crevices, termite mound crevices or under logs. Some elephant shrews construct nests on the forest floor, in which they sleep when not active. They also construct a network of paths to help them move around their territory. These trails are also used as escape routes from predators, such as snakes and small mammals (Smithers 1971).
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
The diet consists mainly of termites and ants, but also includes shoots, berries and roots (Vaughan 2000). In captivity they accept various foods, including fruits and vegetables (Nowak 1997).
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: wood, bark, or stems; fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Elephantulus rufescens has a very limited role in the ecosystem. One reason for this is that it rarely ever creates new habitat due to the fact that it uses old, abondoned burrows and piles of leaves to build its nest.
Elephantulus rufescens have a keen sense of smell that helps them to sense food and danger. When pursued, they hide in any available shelter. They also make a series of escape routes radiating out from their nests to feeding areas so that they can quickly escape if being pursued by a predator. Few predators actually raid their nest sites perhaps because the young mature quickly and leave the nest (Smithers 1971).
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
There are different estimates of the life span of these animals. Animals living in the wild might reach an age of 1 to 1.5 years; those in captivity live about 3.5 years.
Status: wild: 1 to 1.5 years.
Status: captivity: 3 to 4 years.
Status: wild: 1 years.
Status: captivity: 3 years.
Status: wild: 6.0 years.
Status: captivity: 1.6 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The pair does not spend much time together. Females are usually dominant to males. Each individual defends the mating teritory sex-specifically; males ward off males and females ward off females. Boundary encounters are characterized by drumming of one or both hind feet, ritualized gestures, and high speed chases (Rathbun 1995).
Mating System: monogamous
Elephantulus rufescens form monogamous pairs when they mate and share a territory of about 0.34 ha. The pair makes trails through this area and mate at established points they mark. These markings are made by scent-marking, including rubbing a sternal gland on the substrate and probably by urination and defecation (Koontz and Roeper 1983). Females may have several liters annually; recorded interbirth intervals range from 56 to 145 days. There is no seasonal time for reproduction- mating takes place year round (Koontz and Roeper 1983).
Breeding season: No reproductive seasonality has been observed in the wild or in captivity (Koontz and Roeper 1983).
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Range gestation period: 57 to 65 days.
Range weaning age: 18 to 36 days.
Average weaning age: 25 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 50 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 50 days.
Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average birth mass: 10.6 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 50 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 50 days.
Elephantulus rufescens have a gestation period of about two months. The young are precocial, well developed at birth, covered with hair, and fairly large. . Their eyes are open at birth or soon thereafter and can walk almost immediately after they are born and thus, require minimal parental care. They are weaned by the time they are about 25 days old. At about 50 days they reach adult size, are sexually mature, and are driven from the parental territory.
Parental Investment: precocial ; male parental care ; female parental care
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Elephantulus rufescens
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2006Least Concern(IUCN 2006)
- 2006Least Concern
According to the "Red List of Threatened Animals" of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) in 1996 Elephantulus rufescens was classified as "vulnerable". The most important causes for decline of its populations are habitat loss and fragmentation by deforestation (Rathbun 1995).
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
These animals are not known to have a negative economic impact on humans.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
The East African long-eared elephant shrew (Elephantulus rufescens) carries a type of malaria that humans apparently cannot contract. Therefore, it has been used in malarial research and has contributed greatly to medical advancement in the curing and understanding of Malaria (Koontz and Roeper 1983).
Positive Impacts: research and education
Rufous elephant shrew
The rufous elephant shrew or rufous sengi (Elephantulus rufescens) is a species of elephant shrew in the Macroscelididae family. It is found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Its natural habitats are dry savanna and subtropical or tropical dry shrubland.
- Schlitter, D. A. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- FitzGibbon, C., Perrin, M. & Stuart, C. (2008). Elephantulus rufescens. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 29 December 2008.