Sumatra water shrew (Chimarrogale sumatrana)

Sumatran water shrew female, side view
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Sumatra water shrew fact file

Sumatra water shrew description

GenusChimarrogale (1)

This exceptionally rare water-dwelling animal has a body modified for an aquatic life (3). While it is relatively large for a shrew (3), the body and head, with the long, pointed nose characteristic of all shrews (4), are streamlined. The short, dense fur, which is sooty grey on the back with a scattering of longer, white-tipped hairs, and dull brown on the underside (2), is somewhat water repellent (3). The eyes of the Malayan water shrew are tiny, and the small ears can be sealed with a flap of skin when underwater. The feet are fringed with stiff hairs, an adaptation which aids propulsion when the shrew is kicking through the water (3).

Also known as
Sumatran water shrew.
Head-body length: 80 – 130 mm (2)
Tail length: 60 – 101 mm (2)
30 g (2)

Sumatra water shrew biology

Water shrews belonging to the genus Chimarrogale are reportedly competent underwater swimmers and feed on insects, aquatic larvae, small crustaceans and fish found in their forest stream habitat (3).


Sumatra water shrew range

The Sumatra water shrew has only been recorded from the Padang Highlands in west Sumatra, Indonesia (5).


Sumatra water shrew habitat

Inhabits streams in tropical mountain forest (6), probably up to altitudes of 3,300 metres (5).


Sumatra water shrew status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Sumatra water shrew threats

The little-known Sumatra water shrew depends on clear mountain streams for its survival, and so water pollution poses a threat to this species’ existence. Deforestation increases the amount of sediment that is washed into streams, degrading the quality of the Sumatra water shrew’s habitat (3). In addition, Sumatra water shrews are sometimes caught in fish traps as they forage underwater (5).


Sumatra water shrew conservation

A conservation action plan for all Eurasian insectivores and tree shrews, including the Sumatra water shrew, was complied by the IUCN in 1995. The plan recommended that surveys should be carried out in the Padang Highlands to determine the distribution of this Critically Endangered species, in addition to undertaking research to obtain information on its ecological requirements (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the Sumatra water shrew see:



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Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
  2. EDGE of Existence (February, 2008)
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walkers Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Stone, D. (1996) Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews: Status, Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Insectivore, Tree Shrew and Elephant Shrew Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switerzland.
  6. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Image credit

Sumatran water shrew female, side view  
Sumatran water shrew female, side view

© Samuel T. Turvey

Samuel T. Turvey


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