Rhynchocyon chrysopygusgolden-rumped elephant-shrew(Also: golden-rumped sengi)

Geographic Range

Restricted to remaining pockets of suitable forest in coastal Kenya.


Lives in moist, dense, coastal scrub forest and in lowland semi-deciduous forest along coastal Kenya.

Physical Description

Golden-rumped elephant shrews, like all elephant shrews, have a long, flexible snout. They are distinguished from other elephant shrews by their golden rump patch and grizzled gold forehead. There is an area of thickened skin (a dermal shield) under the rump patch. This dermal shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to provide protection from the biting attacks of hostile males. The feet, ears, and legs are black. The tail is black, execpt the distal 1/3 which is white with a black tip. The fur is fine, stiff and glossy; the ears are naked; the tail is sparsely furred. All elephant shrews are semi-digitigrade (i.e. they walk on their finger/toe-tips). Golden-rumped elephant shrews have sexually dimorphic canines (6.6mm in males; 4.6mm in females). It is thought that males use these canines in attacks on other males during territory defense. Measurements: Total Length: 526mm; Tail: 243mm; Hind Foot: 74mm; Ear: 34mm.

  • Average mass
    540 g
    19.03 oz


Golden-Rumped Elephant Shrews breed throughout the year. Females give birth to a single young after a 42 day gestation period. Young remain in the nest for two weeks and emerge fully weaned. After emerging, the young follows its mother on her foraging runs but becomes completely independent after about 5 days. The young remains on its parents' home range until it defines its own range (5-20 weeks post emergence). Elephant shrews live an average of 4-5 years.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    42 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    38 days



These elephant shrews live in stable, monogamous pairs that change only if one partner dies. Pairs establish neighboring home ranges of about 1.7 ha. Home ranges are defended on a sex-specific basis, i.e. females will chase off intruding females, males will chase off other males. If threatened, either by a predator or a congeneric intruder, elephant shrews will display tail-slapping behavior where they repeatedly slap the forest floor with their tail. If further disturbed, they will run while slapping the ground with their hind legs. These auditory cues may help to warn other elephant shrews of the presence of a predator. Elephant shrews are diurnal and sleep at night in nests on the forest floor. Nests are always constructed in the early morning by excavating a hollow in the soil, lining it with leaves and layering over the top with dry leaves. New nests are constructed every 1-3 days and take about 2 hours to build.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Insectivorous. The elephant shrew uses its long, flexible nose to overturn leaf-litter where it finds and eats a wide variety of invertebrates including earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some northern Kenyans trap and eat Elephant Shrews.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative


Conservation Status

IUCN: Vulnerable. The coastal forest where these animals live is being cleared for agriculture. They are protected in 44 hectares of the Gedi Historical Monument in Kenya.

Other Comments

Golden-rumped elephant shrews have a commensal relationship with red-capped robin-chats (Cossypha natalensis). These birds will follow an elephant shrew through the forest and feed on the bits of invertebrates that are left in their wake.


Sharon Jansa (author), University of Minnesota.



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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


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


uses touch to communicate


Macdonald, D. (Ed.) (1987) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File. New York.

Rathbun, G. B. (1979) Rhynchocyon chrysopygus. Mammalian Species (117:1-4). American Society of Mammalogists.