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The Zoo has seven short-eared elephant shrews. Three were imported from the Wuppertal Zoo in Germany on December 15, 2009, and five were born at the Philadelphia Zoo since 2010. Our youngest shrews (twins!) were born on December 28, 2012.
Two shrews can be seen on exhibit in the Small Mammal House. The others are paired up for breeding off-exhibit.
Short-eared elephant shrews like to be warm, so ours will often be observed resting on a heat rock.
Small Mammal House
The smallest of all sengi species, short-ears typically weigh less than two ounces. They are sometimes known as soft-furred sengis which is a reference to their dense and very soft coat that they keep in good condition with frequent dust baths. They are greyish-brown in color with a whitish underside. Each hair has several shades, with the darkest color closest to the body. Their long tail is covered with short, hars hairs and is held horizontally when the sengi is moving. Their rear legs are surprisingly long and delicate and although it looks like they would move by hopping, this isn't the case. Their ears are small and round, which gives them their common name - most other species of sengi have larger or longer ears. Their most striking feature is their long mobile snout which resembles an elephant's trunk. The nostrils are at the tip of the snout and are surrounded by sensitive whiskers which help the sengi as it forages for food.
1-2 years in the wild; 3-4 years in captivity.
Short-eared sengis give birth to 1-2 young after a 56 day gestation. The baby sengis are born precocial which means that they are fully furred, their eyes are open, and they are able to move around within minutes after birth. The female leaves them in one of the shelters while she goes out to forage and comes back to nurse them several times throughout the day. They mature quickly - starting to hunt for insects at 2 weeks of age. By 41-46 days the young sengis are sexually mature and have begun to establish their own home ranges.
Short-eared sengis may be active throughout the day, but mostly forage in the morning and evening hours. They use their long, mobile snout to sniff in crevaces, between rocks, etc. in search of insects, which form a large part of their diet. They are omnivores that also eat plant material and seeds. Sengis establish a home range and may be solitary or live in pairs. There are several shelters in this area that are connected by a series of trails. These sengi "highways" are well known by the residents and they maintain them by clearing them of small pebbles, branches or other debris that may block the path. By keeping the trails clean the sengis develop a series of escape routes so they can dash at high speed to their shelters when pursued by a predator. Sengis enjoy warm temperatures and will sun bathe during the day. They are still attentive for danger however and will dart off to one of their shelters at the slightest disturbance.
100 to 110 mm; avg. 105 mm (3.94 to 4.33 in; avg. 4.13 in)
40 to 50 g; avg. 45 g (1.41 to 1.76 oz; avg. 1.58 oz)
The short-eared elephant shrew feeds on insects, berries and plant roots in the wild. At the Zoo the shrews receive a base diet of a canned dog food blended with egg yolk. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of insects, fruits and vegetables. This portion of the diet promotes normal feeding and foraging behaviors and contributes to the overall nutrient intake of the animal.
Found in Namibia, southern Botswana and South Africa, the short-eared elephant shrew lives in dry semi-desert areas with sparse cover. They will create shelters in the sandy soil or move into burrows abandoned by other species.
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