Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

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).
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Description

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).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species is endemic to Kenya and occurs in fragmented and small forest patches inland from Mombasa (on the north side of the Kombeni River near the Rabai Hills) north as far as the Boni Forest (Corbet and Hanks 1968; Rathbun 1979a,b), but probably absent from gallery and ground-water forests.
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Geographic Range

Restricted to remaining pockets of suitable forest in coastal Kenya.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range

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

Morphology

Physical Description

Golden-rumped elephant shrews, like all elephant shrews, have a long, flexible snout. They are distinguished from other elephant shrews by their golden rump patch and grizzled gold forehead. There is an area of thickened skin (a dermal shield) under the rump patch. This dermal shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to provide protection from the biting attacks of hostile males. The feet, ears, and legs are black. The tail is black, execpt the distal 1/3 which is white with a black tip. The fur is fine, stiff and glossy; the ears are naked; the tail is sparsely furred. All elephant shrews are semi-digitigrade (i.e. they walk on their finger/toe-tips). Golden-rumped elephant shrews have sexually dimorphic canines (6.6mm in males; 4.6mm in females). It is thought that males use these canines in attacks on other males during territory defense. Measurements: Total Length: 526mm; Tail: 243mm; Hind Foot: 74mm; Ear: 34mm.

Average mass: 540 g.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Golden-rumped Sengi is found in forest, dense woodland, and thicket habitats that support dense leaf litter on the ground. They eat a wide range of invertebrates, including beetles, termites, earth worms, and millipedes. They are diurnal and form monogamous pairs (FitzGibbon 1997). They spend the night on the forest floor in leaf nests, which have been used to estimate relatively abundance (FitzGibbon and Rathbun 1994). They produce single highly precocial young about every two months throughout the year. In many regards, their general natural history is best understood if one considers them a combination of a small ant-eater and a miniature antelope (Rathbun 1979a; FitzGibbon 1995).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Lives in moist, dense, coastal scrub forest and in lowland semi-deciduous forest along coastal Kenya.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

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

Food Habits

Insectivorous. The elephant shrew uses its long, flexible nose to overturn leaf-litter where it finds and eats a wide variety of invertebrates including earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11 years (captivity) Observations: These animals have been reported to live up to 5 years in the wild (Ronald Nowak 1999). One captive specimen was at least 11 years old when it died (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrews breed throughout the year. Females give birth to a single young after a 42 day gestation period. Young remain in the nest for two weeks and emerge fully weaned. After emerging, the young follows its mother on her foraging runs but becomes completely independent after about 5 days. The young remains on its parents' home range until it defines its own range (5-20 weeks post emergence). Elephant shrews live an average of 4-5 years.

Average birth mass: 80 g.

Average gestation period: 42 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
38 days.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
FitzGibbon, C. & Rathbun, G. (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group)

Reviewer/s
Rathbun, G. (Afrotheria Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
The most important site for the species is Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, providing 372 km² of habitat, supporting c. 10,000–20,000 individuals. The species was recorded in five out of an additional 13 small patches of coastal forest surveyed north of Mombasa in the early 1990s (FitzGibbon 1994). However these forest patches, many of which are kayas (sites held sacred by the Mijikenda people), are all very small (mostly less than 1 km²) and their continued existence is in doubt. The species is not restricted to true forest, also occurring in some scrub and degraded woodland habitats, although usually at low densities (FitzGibbon 1994). These secondary habitats probably cover less than 500 km² (FitzGibbon 1994). Boni Forest (c. 133 km²), and small forest patches nearby, may provide additional habitat but there is currently no information on the status of the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew in this area. They are not thought to occur in Witu Forest (Rathbun 1979b), probably because it is a ground-water forest. The species is listed as Endangered B1ab(iii), based on having an extent of occurrence less than 5,000 km², severely fragmented habitat, and continuing decline.

History
  • 2006
    Endangered
    (IUCN 2006)
  • 2006
    Endangered
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
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IUCN: Vulnerable. The coastal forest where these animals live is being cleared for agriculture. They are protected in 44 hectares of the Gedi Historical Monument in Kenya.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Status

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

Population
Populations densities in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest decreased by c. 30% between 1993 and 1996 from an estimated 20,000 to 14,000 individuals (Bauer 1996; FitzGibbon 1994); the decline appeared to be concentrated in the Cynometra woodland, rather than in the mixed or Brachystegia woodland. Population trends in other areas are unknown, except for the small population at Gede Ruins National Monument (an area of 44 ha) declined significantly between the early 1970s (population estimated at ca 70 individuals; Rathbun 1979a) and the early 1990s (population estimated at <15 individuals; FitzGibbon 1994). Clearance of woodland and scrub in surrounding areas is likely to have resulted in further population declines elsewhere.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Outside of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the major threat to this species is likely to be habitat loss (Rathbun and Kyalo 2000), as a result of clearance of scrub and woodland. Many of the kaya forests have been severely degraded by tree felling and pole collecting, and their boundaries eroded by agricultural encroachment. Habitat loss not only results in a reduced distribution, but also increases isolation of the remaining small populations. Within Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the species appears to be adversely affected by logging (but not pole collecting), primarily in the Cynometra habitat type. This may be due to the resulting reduction in leaf litter and canopy cover, and the loss of hollow trunks used as refuges (FitzGibbon 1994; Bauer 1996; Rathbun and Kyalo 2000); trapping by woodcarvers who camp in the Cynometra habitat for long periods and trap a variety of wildlife for food may also be contributing to the decline. It was estimated in the early 1990s that about 3,000 Golden-rumped Sengis were being caught per year by hunters in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. At that time the species was not being targeted by hunters (it has an unpleasant taste), it was primarily caught in traps and snares designed for other animals (particularly the Four-toed Sengi, Petrodromus tetradactylus), and overall trapping was considered unlikely to be having a significant impact on population levels (FitGibbon et al. 1995). However, trapping intensity in Arabuko-Sokoke is reduced by forest guard patrols, and unrestricted trapping in un-patrolled areas may be having a negative impact. Predation by dogs may be an additional threat close to areas of habitation (FitzGibbon 1994).
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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).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the focus of a project to promote long-term conservation of the forest through sustainable management and community participation in forest conservation (Rathbun and Kyalo 2000). A 25-year Strategic Management Plan (2002 to 2027) has been developed for this forest. Golden-rumped Sengis are currently being monitored in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest under a three year (2003 - 2005) USAID funded project run by Nature Kenya (the Kenyan partner to BirdLife International). The forest is managed jointly by the Forest Department and Kenya Wildlife Service. The kaya forests are the subject of a project run by the Coast Forest Conservation Unit (National Museums of Kenya), which assists local communities to re-establish effective local control over resources in these sacred forests. Through the efforts of the CFCU, these forests have been gazetted as National Monuments, a legal status which prevents development and encroachment but provides only limited protection for biodiversity.
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Conservation

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).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

none

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some northern Kenyans trap and eat Elephant Shrews.

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Wikipedia

Golden-rumped elephant shrew

The golden-rumped elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus) is the largest species in the African elephant shrew family. It is only found in the coastal Arabuko Sokoke National Park north of Mombasa in Kenya. Its name is derived from the conspicuous golden fur on its hindquarters, which contrasts strongly with its otherwise dark fur. On juveniles, the fur shows vestigial traces of the checkerboard pattern seen on another giant elephant shrew, the checkered elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon cirnei).

The golden-rumped elephant shrew lives on the forest floor of evergreen forests, rooting through the leaf litter for 80% of the waking day looking for grasshoppers, beetles, spiders and other small invertebrates.

The golden-rumped elephant shrew has evolved various strategies to avoid predators, particularly snakes (such as black mambas and cobras) and the southern banded snake-eagle. It is very fast, capable of running at 25 km/h. When it detects a predator within its escape distance, it will run. If, however, the predator is outside its escape distance, the elephant shrew will advertise its presence by slapping the leaf litter. This lets the predator know it has been seen. In the event of a chase or an ambush, the golden flash of fur will also often deflect the predator's attention away from the head and onto the rump, which has thickened skin. As a final precaution, each shrew maintains several nests.

The golden-rumped elephant shrew is classified as endangered because of its highly restricted and fragmented environment. It is also hunted for food by people and killed by feral dogs.

This species was identified as one of the top 10 "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.[3]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). "Order Macroscelidea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ FitzGibbon, C. & G. Rathbun (IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group). 2008. Rhynchocyon chrysopygus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 04 June 2013.
  3. ^ Protection for 'weirdest' species. BBC. January 16, 2007. Accessed June 4, 2013.

References[edit]

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