Short-eared Elephant-Shrews
                                                Macroscelides proboscideus

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Keeping single or a pair?
Exhibition in zoos


Oh, what a life ...For keeping short-eared elephant-shrews terraria and cages for small mammals are useful. The larger the enclosure the better, especially when the animals are kept in pairs. I housed my female "Mrs. Frisby" in a terrarium with a ground size of 50 x 90 cm and the male "Biffy" in a cage with 50 x 80 cm.

The substrate I used for the enclosures was sand (exactly: sand used for children´s sand box with a grain size of 1 mm). Even more coarse substrates like gravel, chips of wood or chips of bark can be used, but then the animals should be offered a plate with fine sand (chinchilla sand) for sand bathing. Sand for bathing must be clean and dry and should be changed regularly. Dirty sand and poor possibility to sand bath can be a cause for fatty and rough pelage.

For furnishing the enclosure roots, stones, branches and pieces of bark are useful, some people also use shelters made of wood or cardboard, flower pots or hollow bamboo. It is not necessary to offer hay or anything like this, because the animals do not build nests. What never should be missed in an enclosure for short-eared elephant-shrews is a heat source, for example an infrared bulb. The animals really love it - laying and dozing under a heating bulb or on the top of a heated stone. I also made the experience that my "e-shrews" prefer sun light to the heating bulb if they have the choice.

Keeping single or a pair?

If you do not want breeding short-eared elephant-shrews, you should keep them single in any case. A permanent pair keeping for breeding can become problematic, if the enclosure is too small. So I made the experience with my pair, that the female - as soon as she was pregnant - attacked and chased the male in a severe way. Even though serious injuries did not happen, the male lost weight because of the stress. So in my case I socialized male and female for two or three weeks for mating and separated them with the first signs of aggression. If a large enclosure is available, which also provides visual separation, it is possible to socialize male and female permanently, even during birth of the young. But injuries of the young, maybe in behalf of the male can not be excluded completely. 

Biffy feeding on carotsDiet

Short-eared elephant-shrews do not only prefer in the wild, but also in captivity an omnivorous diet (R. UNGER & D. SCHRATTER [2000]: Nahrungspräferenzen von Kurzohr-Rüsselspringern, Macroscelides proboscideus [Shaw 1800] im Tiergarten Schönbrunn. Zool. Garten N. F. 70/1. p. 60-69). The food I provided consisted of four components, whereby single food sorts are preferred differently. It might be worth to experiment a little bit on your own with the food:

1. Main food: It contained animal protein (wet cat food, curd, a zoo-designed mixture of curled milk, minced ox heart and vitamins, hard boiled egg), vegetable (lettuce, paprika, carrot, cucumber) and fruit (kiwi, apple, pear, grapes, melon, banana) and was prepared every evening, because to my experience the animals eat most during the night. Vegetable and fruit were finely rasped or cut, food was mixed and before feeding powered with "Clovit" or "Bionektar" (in itself food for birds feeding on nectar, but it also supplies vitamins and minerals for short-eared elephant-shrews).

We could die for mealworms!2. Mixture of fine seeds

3. Water

4. E-shrews love crickets and meal worms. From time to time I put a plate with germinated cress seeds into the enclosure, just for variety. Also dried or fresh green millet is eaten by and then a little bit. 

Exhibition in zoos

When exhibiting short-eared elephant-shrews in zoos the question arises, if housing in a nocturnal house is reasonable. In some zoos this is done (f. e. Berlin, London), but I think visitors do not benefit from this. In nocturnal houses animals can often only be observed badly due to dim illumination. Because short-eared elephant-shrews resting often very exposed they can even be well observed by visitors under natural light conditions.

When exhibiting these animals it might be important to consider their sensitivity for noise. But with a good acoustic shielding and a clever arranging of heating sources and stones even these mammals can be presented to the visitor. Such small mammal exhibits can become more attractive with plants, which clearly should be non-toxic and easy to cultivate: f. e. Aloa sp., money tree (Crassula ovata), Aeonium arboreum or Sansevieria trifasciata. It must be warned against using euphorbias because of their toxic milk. Less intensive in care than living plants are dried bundles of grass or branches with dried leaves.

About the maintenance and exhibition of short-eared elephant-shrews KIM TRAUTMANN and CHRISTINA CARBONE, animal keepers at the Philadelphia Zoo, wrote an article, which might offer interesting hints: K. TRAUTMANN & C. CARBONE (1991): The Exhibition and Management of the Short-eared Elephant Shrew (Macroscelides proboscideus) at the Philadelphia Zoo. AAZPA Regional Conference Proceedings. p. 663-670.