Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Zanj Elephant Shrews In Shimoni Forest

Our coastal forest research team of volunteers was out in Shimoni's forest continuing our pilot study of the vulnerable (officially 'data deficient') Zanj elepant shrew, of which Shimoni forest is home to what seems to be a substantial population. The method were are trying out involves setting a 50m long fishing net... and no, we're not getting our marine and forest research confused. Elephant shrews are 'trap shy' so many conventiona small mammal traps meet with little success. However they are fastidious about following their pathways through the forest and if a net happens to cross one, they are apparently as likely to entangle themselves trying to get through as they are to turn around and find another route to their nest. This is the theory at least!

So the team set up the net and then went to get a couple of bird surveys done, then take a lunch break... at which point, out of the dense undergrowth, two elephant shrews came charging out, one 'chasing' the other. Running straight towards us they came to a sudden halt literally a few feet from us. Clearly caught by surprise, they froze, turned and ran off in opposite directions. Although one headed in the direction of our net, after fanning out and closing in on the net, our volunteers found it empty... the elephant shrew had evaded us once again.

Relatively little is known about the behaviour of the Zanj elephant shrew (Rhynchocyon petersi) and they ar elisted as data deficient by the IUCN, considered vulnerable due to habitat loss. We can only guess at the behaviour we saw, but it culd have been a territorial conflict; their territories average 1.7ha are defended against individuals of the same sex. Males are the more common trespassers which can lead to chases and fights.