Golden-rumped elephant-shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)

Golden-rumped elephant-shrew
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Golden-rumped elephant-shrew fact file

Golden-rumped elephant-shrew description

GenusRynchocyon (1)

This large elephant-shrew, or sengi (5), gains its common name for the distinctive golden coloured fur on its rump. In common with other elephant-shrews the snout is long, pointed and flexible (3), and the tail is almost naked (2). The coat is coarse but glossy and a dark reddish-brown colour apart from the yellowish/golden rump and a white tip to the tail (2). There is a 'dermal shield' of thickened skin under the sengi's rump patch that is 3 times thicker than the skin on the middle of the back (4). This shield is thicker in males than in females and is thought to act as protection against the biting attacks of other males (3). The taxonomic relationship of this group has always been difficult to assess but elephant-shrews are not closely related to shrews, as their name would appear to suggest; recent molecular evidence places sengis (order Macroscelidea) in an ancient group of African mammals that also includes elephants, hyraxes and golden moles, amongst others (4).

Also known as
Golden-rumped sengi.
Head-body length: 23 - 26 cm (2)
Tail length: 21 - 23 cm (2)
540 g (2)

Golden-rumped elephant-shrew biology

Sengis are monogamous and mate for life (3). Pairs occupy home ranges, which they defend against intruders although individuals spend the majority of their time alone within this area (4). They are diurnal, spending the night asleep in a nest constructed from leaf litter on the forest floor; carefully choosing from about six nests to ensure they remain undetected by predators (4). Mating occurs throughout the year and females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of around 42 days (3). After 2 weeks the young are fully weaned and will emerge from the nest to forage with their mother, although they are completely independent after a mere 5 days following emergence (3).

These sengis forage for invertebrates such as earthworms, millipedes, insects and spiders by searching through the leaf litter on the forest floor with their flexible nose (3). These small mammals must be constantly vigilant of predators such as harrier eagles (Circus sp.), and snakes, including black mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis) and forest cobras (Naja melanoleuca), and can run at speeds of up to 25 km per hour when trying to escape (4). Elephant-shrews will alert predators that they have been spotted and their cover blown by loudly slapping their tail on the forest floor (4).


Golden-rumped elephant-shrew range

Found along the coast of Kenya from Mombassa to the Somali border (2).


Golden-rumped elephant-shrew habitat

Inhabits coastal regions and found in moist, dense scrub forest and lowland semi-deciduous forest (3).


Golden-rumped elephant-shrew status

Classified as Endangered (EN - B1+2c) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Golden-rumped elephant-shrew threats

Numbers of the golden-rumped elephant-shrew are severely threatened by habitat destruction along the Kenyan coast. Forests are being relentlessly cleared for farming, development and timber collection (4). Illegal trapping of these sengis for food also occurs, although current levels are thought to be sustainable (4).


Golden-rumped elephant-shrew conservation

The golden-rumped sengi occurs mainly in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya (6), which receives a degree of protection from the Kenyan Wildlife Service (7).

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

Find out more

To learn about efforts to conserve the golden-rumped elephant-shrew see:

To find out more about elephant shrews see:



Authenticated (19/8/02) by Galen Rathburn. Chair, IUCN-SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group.



Of, or relating to, the skin.
Active during the day.
Animals with no backbone.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.


  1. UNEP-WCMC database (July, 2002)
  2. Alden, P.C., Estes, R.D., Schlitter, D., McBride, B. (1996) Field Guide, African Wildlife. Harper Collins, London.
  3. Sengi Website (August, 2002)
  4. Animal Diversity Web (July, 2002)$narrative.html
  5. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press.
  6. Galen Rathburn (20/8/02) Pers. comm.
  7. Kenyan Wildlife Service (August, 2002)

Image credit

Golden-rumped elephant-shrew  
Golden-rumped elephant-shrew

© Galen Rathbun

Dr Galen Rathbun
California Academy of Sciences
55 Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco
United States of America
Tel: +1 805 927 3059
Fax: +1 805 927 3059


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