In Africa, there are seventeen different species of the elephant shrew, belonging to the family Macroscelididae in the order Macroscelidea, and I have no idea what that means. They are small, fast, and avid hunters of everyone’s favorite meal, the insects. They’re like Speedy Gonzalez if he was from Africa and also not a mouse, but I don’t know enough native African names to make the joke work and also be not racist.
Let me show you the world! Well, Africa. Well, a small part of it. Well, one animal.
According to people that get paid to talk about animals (scientist, devil men, whatever you want to call them), elephant shrews are not actually shrews. This could be because they do share some traits with the shrew, such as being small, covered in fur, and eating insects.
Elephant shrews range in size from about 10 to 30 cm, and weigh between 50 to 500 g. I’m from America, so all I heard was “10 to 30 ‘nonsense’, and between 50 to 500 ‘more nonsense’”. They’ve got hair and stuff, and giant back legs like kangaroos. Proportionately, of course. Using these back legs to spring themselves around, they’ve earned the nickname “jumping shrews.” I’m imaging them all playing a game of basketball, and now you are too. I’m winning my game. You didn’t put yourself in your game? Shame on you, that’s an easy win. Pick your battles.
This is a funny thing to pick out, but their noses really intrigue me. They’ve got this snout thing going on, and can wiggle it around in search of food. It kind of reminds me of the little camera scope with the movable head on it that they put up guy’s butts sometimes when they pee too much. Note: do not use an elephant shrew’s snout for a colonoscopy. Ew dude.
Elephant shrew babies come out more developed than most. They’re born to run, hopping around almost immediately after birth like some sort of hellspawn. The baby can even take solid food on its first day of life. That’s like you have a baby, and then it makes you both sandwiches, and then it murders and eats your family because it is clearly the work of Satan. Oh, also, elephant shrew babies are abnormally adorable. I am a 25 year old man and I write that sentence with full confidence.
The Death Superhighway
Now this is totally rad and why I wanted to write about these guys in the first place. Some species of elephant shrew will clear pathways in the African brush of leaves and twigs and stuff. It uses these pathways as a quick way to get away from predators, as the elephant shrew can hit 8 mph (or 12.87 kmh, whatever be that way ‘rest of the world’). But not only that, it uses them daily and constantly to hunt for food. It shoots up and down these pathways looking for insects to munch on, as it needs to constantly eat to constantly fuel its need to constantly hunt. So essentially, elephant shrews create a series of death superhighways for insects to get caught in and then mercilessly slaughters them to feed its need to continue slaughtering them. Murder is rad.
If you meet an elephant shrew, you should probably be nice to it, as they’re very skittish and tough to catch. Elephant shrews are unfortunately facing habitat fragmentation, and were listed as ‘vulnerable’ in 1996. You can help by donating to the African Wildlife Foundation, or by not killing one if you find it. That should be pretty easy and also polite. How do you feel about the elephant shrew? Would you keep one as a pet? Tell me why or why not in the comments below.
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