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Short-eared Elephant Shrew

(Macroscelides proboscideus)

The short-eared elephant shrew is the smallest of the 17 living species of elephant shrew, also known as sengi.


Smithsonian's National Zoo Short-Eared Elephant Shrew

The short-eared elephant shrew weighs between one and 1.5 ounces, and has a body length of about four inches. Its fur is gray brown, with a white underside. Its nostrils are at the tip of a flexible snout.

Habitat and distribution

Namibia, southern Botswana, and the cape of south Africa. These elephant shrews burrow into sandy soil in arid semi-desert, dry grass, or shrubland.


Ants, termites, berries, tender shoots of young plants


After a gestation of 56 days, an elephant shrew gives birth to a litter of one or two during the wet season (August and September). Babies are born fully furred, eyes open, and precocial (capable of moving around on its own). The mother returns from foraging several times a day to nurse her young. Young start their own hunting at two weeks old. At five to six weeks old, they are sexually mature and seek out their own home range.


They keep trails clear of debris for fast escape from predators and keep their tails horizontal while they move. They clean themselves with dust baths.

Social Structure

Primarily solitary

Fun Facts

The 17 living species of elephant shrew are more closely related to elephants than shrews. They can be found throughout mainland Africa, with the exception of western Africa and the Saraha.