The following report shows
my experiences with handraising short-eared elephant-shrews and was published
in 2000 in slightly different form (Zeitschrift des Kölner Zoos, 43.
Jahrgang, Heft 3, p. 121-126).
On May 6th 1998 the female M 1394 ("Mrs. Frisby") and the male M 1275 ("Biffy") were lend to me from the Vienna Zoo (Schoenbrunn). On June 11th I found two young in the terrarium, dead and partly devoured. Since another male at the Vienna Zoo sometimes killed young, I separated my male a few days before the birth of the next litter. But these young were also killed and eaten - verifiable by the female. I assumed the female feeling disturbed, therefore I offered more shelters. But the next litter, born on January 24th 1999 was killed once again. So I decided to try handraising the next litter.
Preparations for handraising
First I estimated the approximate date of the birth of the young. To my experiences the young were born about two months after putting the male to the female. This corresponds with the dates of SAUER & SAUER (1972), who report average birth intervals of 76 days, ROSENTHAL (1975) gives 56-71 days on average.
For the young I prepared a plastic box (50 x 50 cm, opened on the top) with sand for substrate, stones and pieces of bark as hiding places, a thermometer and an infrared heating lamp, which maintained a constant temperature of 30°C. At the date of the expected birth I carefully observed the female, especially in the evening and at night, since TRAUTMANN & CARBONE (1991) stated that the birth of the young mostly occurred during night.
On April 23th 1999 at 23.50 h the first litter was born, but only the birth of the second young was observed directly. The birth of the second litter was on June 5th, starting at 18.45 h and took 15 minutes. The behavior of the female during birth was the same as described by Galina VAKHRUSHEVA und Vlad KOSTENKO (Fortpflanzungsverhalten der Kurzohr-Rüsselspringer. Mitteilungen der Bundesarbeitsgruppe [BAG] Kleinsäuger, Heft 2 . S. 5-8). Immediately after birth the female walked away without sniffing or licking the young. She drank some water, hided under a piece of bark and cleaned herself.
After cleaning the female made several attempts to approach the young, which lay motionless, but every time she sprang back. One of the young moved directly towards the female, once again she ran away. In the end the female moved towards the young and grabbed it at its neck. The young started to scream, so I separated the young in order to avoid their killing or hurting.
The young were fed with a mixture of „Feline Milk Substitute Instant“ (by Waltham) and "Antibiophilus“ (Lactobacillus casei var. rhamnosus, Laboratoires Lyocentre Aurillac; one capsule for 24 hours). The milk substitute was diluted in the first days with fennel tea 1:1. Fecal pellets were found in the first litter approx. 19 hours after the birth, in the second litter after 45 hours. The first pellets were soft, 1-2 mm and had a black-greenish colour. Since both litters did not drink well after defecating the first time, I diluted the milk up 1:1,5. Sometimes I gave pure fennel tea after the milk feeding. Both litters started to drink well again. On the 4th and 5th day dilution was reduced, until the substiute was fed undiluted on the 6th day.
For feeding the young I used 2ml-one-way-syringes, later 5ml. I tried to feed both litter again and again immediately after the birth, but they started to drink sufficiently 1-2 hours after birth. The first litter was fed every 3, the second litter every 4 hour.
Especially during the first feedings it took a lot of patience, but the young learned easily to lick the drops of the milk from the top of the syringe. Spilled milk, which would have sticked the fur around the mouth, I wiped off with cotton wool or with my finger. This was important, because after feeding the young wiped their mouth region on the substrate. So sand, spilled milk and hairs would have sticked together to callous clumps, which could not be removed from the fur. Besides cleaning the mouth region with my finger I also massaged the ventral side of the young in order to stimulate digestion, but this seemed to have a positive effect on the overall well-being, too.
To change from liquid to
solid food, in the first litter commercial baby pap (vegetable and beef)
was mixed with the milk substitute on the 7th and 8th day. Additionally,
solid food (a fine mixture of cucumber, carrot, apple, curd and wet cat
food) was offered in a small bowl. To make the young familiar with this
bowl, the feeding with the syringe always took place near the bowl then.
From the 9th day on the young exclusively fed on solid food.
In the second litter I did not use the intermediate food mixture of milk and baby pap. From the 7th day on the young were offered solid food besides the milk feedings. From the 8th day on feeding with the milk substitute was no longer necessary.
Behavior of the young
I observed the behavior of
the first litter until the 25th day, the one of the second litter until
the 14th day. Then the young were housed at the Vienna Zoo.
Already a few minutes after the birth the young started to clean, using their front legs to clean the face and their hind legs for scratching. Half an hour after the birth they ran around, actively sniffing their sibling, stones and pieces of bark.
resting the young always lay parallel or anti-parallel. The strong bond
between the siblings was indicated by intensive mutual grooming and naso-nasal-contacts.
With increasing age the young started to rest separately more often.
Micturition was observed
19 (first litter) and 22 hours (second litter) after birth. With increasing
age the young showed behavioral patterns like sand bathing, trail cleaning
and foot drumming. Upcoming aggression between the siblings, respectively
chasing, was observed on the 25th day (first litter) and led to loosening
of the social bond to the sibling.
During the time I observed the young I could not determine any kind of play behavior. The young only showed explorative behavior in the same way as adult elephant-shrews.
The young were very familiar to my hand from the beginning and I could touch them without running away. Especially the young of the second litter used to rest on my hand after feeding. From the 7th day on they started to climb on my forearm, but no longer slept on my hand.