Truly exceptional

There is one animal as small as a baby’s palm but can escape the largest of the predators.

It soulfully kisses the ground as if looking for something. This is the golden-rumped elephant shrew only found in the coastal Arabuko Sokoke National Park in Kenya.

It’s only as big as the center of an average man’s palm. And you would notice how it crawls back and forth and moves toward the other side of the human palm.

Its name is derived from the striking and prominent golden fur on its hindquarters and is contrasted from its dark fur. Young golden-rumped elephant shrew shows vestigial traces of the checkerboard pattern seen on another giant elephant shrew, the checkered elephant shrew.

The Golden-rumped elephant shrew has made a lot of strategies to avoid predators like snakes but it can be as fast as something from the cheetah and cat family because it is very fast, capable of running at 25 km/hr. When it detects a predator within the so-called “flight distance”, it will retract again. If the predator is outside its flight distance, it will advertise its presence by slapping the leaf litter.

The leaf litter is a tool for the predator to know it has been seen and “should not waste its time chasing the elephant shrew.”

In the event of a chase, or an ambush perhaps, the golden flash of fur will deflect the predators’ attention away from the head which has thickened skin.

And, gear up, each shrew has several nests which it maintains, and yes, the predator won’t be able to associate them with potential food.

It might seem it has already lived a luxurious life because first, it’s little; second, it’s black; and third, it’s can easily move and crawl out of the human palm; and fourth, it has been making nice strategies. Yet, there is one that stops it from living in the world – humans.

There have been reports that the animal is being continuously trapped by people. The mere reason, according to a blog by David Ngala, is for food. It said eating an elephant-shrew is good enough for someone who doesn’t have any meat option. Or maybe, it’s heaven sent for consumption in Africa.

However, the blog said authorities have been trying to introduce alternative sources of meat, and the problem is to be able to provide an alternative to meat.


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