Rufous sengi

Elephantulus rufescens

SUBFAMILY

Macroscelidinae

TAXONOMY

Elephantulus rufescens (Peters, 1878), Ndi, Taita, Kenya. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: East African long-nosed sengi; French: Rat a trompe rouge; German: Rotbraune Elefantenspitzmaus.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Adult rufous sengis weigh 1.5-3.5 oz (41-98 g). The head and body length runs 8-11.5 in (202-290 mm), the tail about the same length. The fur is long and soft, the upper coat colored sandy brown, light gray or light orange, while the underparts are white or grayish. A patchwork of white spots and black streaks on the face render the large, dark eyes less obvious.

DISTRIBUTION

A widespread species, the rufous sengi is found in Namibia, the Cape Province of South Africa, and extreme southern

Botswana, and from southeastern Sudan, southern and eastern Ethiopia and northeastern Somalia to north and southeast Kenya to central and western Tanzania.

HABITAT

Elephantulus rufescens lives in open plains, arid lowlands, savannas, deserts, thornbush, and tropical forests. Most individuals, pairs, or groups will take over abandoned rodent burrows for habitation.

BEHAVIOR

Elephantulus rufescens individuals live singly, in monogamous pairs, or in small colonies. They are usually diurnal, occasionally nocturnal. An individual, pair, or group occupies a territory about 0.84 acres (0.34 ha).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The diet consists mainly of termites and ants, but also includes other invertebrates, shoots, berries, and roots.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Rufous sengis form monogamous pairs when mating, defending territory sex-specifically. Before mating, individuals leave scent markings along trails by means of their sternal (chest) and other scent glands. Mating takes place throughout the year. The young are precocial, as with other sengi species, and weigh about 0.4 oz (10.6 g) at birth. The mating pair spends minimum time together, the females usually dominant to the males.

CONSERVATION STATUS

According to the 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, E. rufescens is classified as Vulnerable. The most important causes for its decline are habitat loss and fragmentation.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Elephantulus rufescens carries a type of malaria to which humans are immune. The species has thus proven valuable in malaria research. ♦

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