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Black and rufous elephant shrews

2019-03-29
Black and rufous elephant shrews

Another, new and unusual species arrived to the Jungle of Congo in Afrykarium– the Black and rufous elephant shrew. It is a small mammal, barely reaching 30 cm and 700 g.

It is an extremely rare animal in zoological gardens. A total of 33 individuals live in only 9 zoos. A couple from the zoo in Rotterdam came to the zoo in Wrocław. Rotterdam zoo for many years has been successfully breeding this tiny and little-known mammal.

A fragment of the Congo Jungle in Afrykarium was adapted to create an enclosure for them, similar to their natural habitat. The black and rufous elephant shrews are  endemic to the humid Udzungwa Mountains (up to 2,300 m above sea level), the dense tropical forests of Tanzania, and a small part of Kenya. At the beginning, only the female Migotka lived in the enclosure. She was born in 2017 at the zoo in Rotterdam, from where she came to Wrocław in April 2018. She is very well acclimated here and even has her favorite treat - a mix of mealworms and crickets

The black and rufous elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon petersi) is one of the 17 known African elephant shrews. They are endemic to a small area of ​​Africa - mainly Tanzania and part of Kenya. They lead a secretive lifestyle and little is known about them. It is suspected that they live in monogamous pairs, males are territorial, and the pair builds and maintains up to 10 nests on their territory. In one litter there are usually two pups that stay in the nest for up to 3 weeks. In their natural environment the black and rufous elephant shrews live about 5 years.

They feed on insects - mainly beetles and termites and crustaceans - for example centipedes.

The presence of the black and rufous elephant shrew indicates a healthy ecosystem. They improve the structure of the soil by digging through the forest floor with their long snouts, and by feeding on insects they regulate their number.

In terms of the threat and protection of this species, we are dealing with a real roller coaster, which is worth clarifying, however. IUCN in 1990, listed the black and rufous elephant shrew as R - Rare, in 1996 as E - Endangered, in 2006 as VU - Vulnerable, to finally give it the status of LC - Least Concern, in 2016. These changes do not result from the improved situation of these animals in the natural environment, but rather come from our better comprehension of the species. It turns out that although the population in the last 10 years has decreased by 30%, mainly due to deforestation, these animals show great adaptability to new conditions. IUCN however, emphasizes that this is a species that should be closely watched, because the decreasing population tendency is trending up, and it may already be necessary to raise the threat status to NT - Near Threatened;  hence the development of conservation breeding in zoological gardens.

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