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We have three giant elephant shrews kept in two separate groups in the Rare Animal Conservation Center.
Alasiri: Female, born on July 10, 2010 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on August 3, 2011. Keepers call her “Ali” for short.
Danny: Male, born on May 10, 2008 at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Suka: Female, born December 25, 2010 at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Suka arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on August 3, 2011. Her name means “jingle” in Swahili (her twin brother, who is still at the National Zoo, is named “Kengele” – bells.)
Active during the day, they are often seen foraging on the floor of their exhibit. They share space with some of our smaller primates since these species utilize different parts of the exhibit.
Rare Animal Conservation Center.
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The black and rufous giant elephant shrew is named for it's bright contrasting coloration. Its head and front end is a bright reddish brown and it's back end is black. Like other members of the order Macroscelidea it has long thin legs, a ratlike tail and a long mobile snout that resembles the trunk of an elephant.
Mostly active during the day, the black and rufous giant elephant shrew uses its long nose to search through the leaf litter in order to find insects. It is always scurrying through the underbrush searching for food while at the same time keeping an eye out for predators such as snakes and hawks. This nervous nature can make them difficult to manage in the Zoo, so the keepers spend a lot of time working with the animals and getting them used to their presence. Many of the shrews have adjusted so well that they will hand feed from their keepers or get on a scale voluntarily so the keepers can monitor their weights.
Black and rufous giant elephant shrews form monogamous pairs that defend a territory of about 3 acres. The pair will build up to ten nests throughout their territory that they use for shelter and for rearing young. The nests are made of leaf litter and are quite large - about 3' across. This is a behavior that we observe here at the Zoo, and the keepers provide a good supply of material so that the shrews can build nests.
Although the pair shares a territory they do not spend much time in actual contact with each other. The female gives birth to 1-2 young after a gestation of 45-47 days. The baby shrews remain in one of the nests for the first three weeks, and then start venturing out for short periods. The male plays no part in rearing the young.
10.5" head and body length with a tail that is nearly the same length.
In the wild giant elephant shrews are believed to feed mainly on insects; however, the wild feeding behaviors and food of this species has not been well studied. At the Zoo the shrews receive a base diet of a ground cat food blended with peanut oil. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of insects, fruits and vegetables.
They are found in the forests and dense woodlands of Kenya and Tanzania in east Africa.
On the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the giant elephant shrew is listed as Vulnerable.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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