Eastern Rock Elephant Shrew

© Shem Compion

Name

Eastern rock elephant shrew or Eastern rock sengi (elephantulus myurus)

Appearance

Eastern rock elephant shrews have a body measuring about 260 mm and a tail that is longer than its head and body length. This animal weighs only 60 grams. Its eyes are distinctly circled in white, and its tail is less hairy in comparison to the that of the Smith’s rock elephant shrew.

Diet

The eastern rock elephant shrew eats small insects such as ants and termites. It spends its days under cover and shade, and moves from these spaces to catch its prey.

Eastern Rock Elephant Shrew Breeding

After eight weeks of gestation, this animal usually gives birth to two sets of twins from September to March, during the rainy summer months. Females can carry several litters in their lifespan. At birth, the young are well developed, fully haired with open eyes, and able to walk soon after. The young are sexually mature at five to six weeks of age.

Behaviour

The eastern rock elephant is mainly diurnal but occasionally operates during twilight hours or at bright moonlit nights in South Africa. They are solitary animals but are sometimes seen in pairs, most likely for mating. They are very nimble, quick and sure-footed moving on the uneven terrain of their habitats.

When alarmed they alert others by loudly drumming their feet and making a series of high pitched squeaks which fade to become a barely audible sound. In making this sound, it holds its head high and curves its long snout over the muzzle. They also communicate through scent, secreted by scent glands at the corners of the mouth, behind the ears and at the base of the tail.

Eastern Rock Elephant Shrew Habitat

This mammal prefers crevices for shelter and protection from birds of prey and other predators, and therefore inhabits areas with boulders and rock debris. Smaller populations can be found on hill slopes or isolated rock formations on plains and valley floors of South Africa.

Where they are found

The eastern rock elephant shrew is widely distributed in South Africa and can be found in North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, the Free State, northern Eastern Cape, and the mountainous areas of western KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. It is a rather common animal and therefore unthreatened, yet its populations are remote due to its limited habitat.