Elephant shrews are cute little critters that live in only one place on Earth: Africa. They got their name because of the proboscis-like nose that resembles that of an elephant's trunk. They are endangered wild animals, and for that reason if not others, they are not good candidates for family pets.
About the Shrew
The common name for the elephant shrew is sengi. Another term is the "golden rump elephant shrew" because of the coloring of the hindquarters. Many species of elephant shrew exist, and scientists at the California Academy of Sciences are closely following their status in the wild. Elephant shrews are gypsies by nature, frequently building new nests to avoid detection from predators. A little bird called the red-capped robin-chat follows them as they hunt, feeding on the remains of the shrews' meals.
Habits and Lifestyles
Elephant shrews live four or five years. They find one mate and stick with the chosen one for life. They were once thought to be related to moles but are now known to be more related to the elephant, manatee and aardvark, the California Academy of Sciences reports. They are elusive little creatures that live on insects. They are shy and tend to stay away from anything they perceive as a danger. They are found only in Africa, in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the Gede Forest in Kenya. Their many enemies include snakes, eagles and most of all human beings, who trap and eat them.
The elephant shrew is listed as endangered on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is mainly due to loss of habitat. The lush forests in which they live are being destroyed in the name of agriculture and logging. Some Kenyans still hunt them for food, which doesn't help the conservation efforts Kenya is attempting to put in place. These include declaring the forest as a sanctuary and making it off-limits to loggers, ranchers and hunters. As of 2012, only an estimated 12,750 of these animals are left. There were, at one time, over 20,000 elephant shrews in Africa.
Elephant Shrews as Pets
Elephant shrews do not make good pets. The fact that they are shy and mate for life indicate they would be boring as pets. Some states don't allow such wild animals to be captive. In others you may need a special permit. One risk is that wild animals potentially carry unknown diseases. It takes generations to domesticate a species, and the elephant shrew has not been a candidate for domestication. Elephant shrews, like other wild animals, have very specific ambient, social and nutritional needs that a standard cage can't meet. They are enough like gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, that you are better off acquiring one of them instead.
- Edge of Existence: Golden-Rumped Sengi (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)
- California Academy of Sciences: Elephant Shre
- California Academy of Sciences: Journey to Namibia
- Humane Society of the United States: Should Wild Animals Be Kept as Pets?
- Arkive: Golden-Rumped Elephant-Shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Rhynchocyon Chrysopygus Golden-Rumped Elephant-Shrew
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.