The last few blogs have contained information on the work that David is doing to conserve the forest, but in this entry, for a change, there is one of the characters in this story. The Golden Rumped Elephant-Shrew is a striking and very cute species, which you may have seen if you have been guided by David through the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. It is about the size of a rabbit, it lives on the forest floor and, most crucially, is now only found in Arabuko-Sokoke forest.
There are actually several species of Elephant-Shrew, with the Golden Rumped variety being the largest. All the species are found across Africa but not outside the continent. As the name and the nose suggests they are indeed related to elephants and that whole odd group of mammals including aardvarks, manatees and hyrax, known as the Afrotheria. Afrotheria evolved around 100 million years ago as Africa drifted north in isolation to its current position.
Elephant-shrews as a group evolved 50 million years ago, right at the start of the Eocene after the dinosaurs’ extinction. This long and unique lineage certainly qualifies it for the status it was awarded by Zoological Society of London in 2007 of being one of ten EDGE species (Evolutionary Distinct, Globally Endangered).
Our Elephant-Shrew is diurnal (awake by day) and insectivorous, spending most of the day looking for small invertebrates and lizards on the forest floor. To watch it feeding click here (very cute). Interestingly they live within territories which they share with mates, which are always monogamous and often for life. However, rather less romantically, they don’t actually spend that much time together foraging alone, leaving scent messages for one another and occasionally meeting. The females produce only one baby at a time, nurturing it in leaf nests on the ground until it is old enough to go and find its own home within Arabuko-Sokoke.