Macroscelides proboscideusshort-eared elephant-shrew(Also: short-eared sengi)

Geographic Range

The short-eared elephant shrew mostly inhabits Namibia, southern Botswana, and South Africa.

(Shaw, 1983)


The animal only lives in desert and semi-desert areas of the countries in which it is found. It hides in the sparse grass cover or bushes that are a part of these dry areas. They also burrow into the sand.

(Smith, 1829)

Physical Description

Compared to members of the other elephant shrew genus, the short-eared elephant shrew has shorter and rounder ears and lacks the pale rings around the eyes that are typical of those animals. The tail is hairy, with a visible gland on the underside. On the hind feet, the first digit is small and has a claw. The fur is usually long, soft, and is an orange, brown or grayish color on top and a lighter color on the underside. Adults often weigh between 40-50 grams with 100-110mm long bodies and 97-130mm long tails. Defining skull features include an enlarged auditory bullae and the appearance of three upper incisors, as well as a short rostrum and crowded teeth. Females also have six mammae.

(Rathbun & Fons) (Unger, online)

  • Range mass
    40 to 50 g
    1.41 to 1.76 oz
  • Range length
    100 to 110 mm
    3.94 to 4.33 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.292 W


The breeding season is in the warm, wet months of August and September. A female may have many pregnancies during one breeding season. (Shaw, 1934)

Gestation for these animals is typically about 56 days and only two young are born, sometimes one. They are born in a very precocial state; they can run within a few hours after birth, are large in size, and are born with hair and their eyes open. Babies are weaned at 16-25 days and reach sexual maturity after about 43 days. (Rathbun & Fons)

  • Breeding season
    August and September
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    56 days
  • Average gestation period
    65 days
  • Range weaning age
    16 to 25 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    43 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    44 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    43 days

The female does not make a nest for the young; however, she will find a sheltered area and give birth to the young in it. The mother does not guard her young and is gone from the litter most of the time, coming back once a day to feed the young. (Smith, 1829)


In the wild, these animals only live for 1-2 years. In captivity they can live as long as 3-4 years.

(Unger, online)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 2 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    8.7 years


These animals are mostly diurnal except when threatened by predators. They are usually solitary animals in the wild except when they come together to mate. When mating, females fend off other females and males fight off other males.

These elephant shrews take refuge under bush or rocks but also dig burrows or use shelters previously built by other small species, typically rodents. The animals use the burrows like roads to get from place to place. They keep them clean by kicking any debris that clogs their tunnels. They also sand bathe to help keep clean.

(Unger, online) (Smith, 1829)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Short-eared elephant shrews typically eat insects, usually termites and ants, and other small invertebrates. They may also feed on plant parts such as roots, shoots, and berries.

(Unger & Kratochvil, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • fruit


The animal usually jumps from bush to bush during the day or basks in the sun, but if harassed by diurnal predators, such as hawks, it switches its schedule and looks for food at dusk, hiding in bushes during the day. Also, by using their forelimbs these animals can dig tunnels very rapidly to quickly escape predators. Few predators prey on the young because the young mature and leave the nest shortly after birth.

(Lincoln Park Zoo, online) (Smith, 1829)

Ecosystem Roles

These elephant shrews help move soil around to create their burrows as well as recycle vacant burrows left from rodent species.

(Unger, online)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Possible helpful soil movement from burrowing activity.

(Unger, online)

Conservation Status

Due to destruction of its habitat, this species is labeled “vulnerable” by the IUCN.

(Shaw, 1983)


Alyce Dohring (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Lincoln Park Zoo, "Short-eared Elephant Shrew" (On-line). Accessed October 4, 2001 at

Rathbun, G., R. Fons. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol 1. New York: Mc Graw-Hill Publishing Co..

Regina, U. "Short-eared Elephant Shrew" (On-line). Accessed October 4, 2001 at

Shaw, 1934. Mammals of Southwest Africa, Vol 1.

Shaw, 1983. The Mammals of Southern Africa Subregion.

Smith, A. 1829. Walker's Mammals of the World. Fourth Edition, Vol 1.. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Unger, R., H. Kratochvil. 1999. Feeding Preferences of Short-eared Elephant Shrews (Macroscelides proboscideus, Smith 1829). Zoology 102, Supplement II: 87.