Elephantulus pilicaudus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Elephantulus pilicaudus
Species Authority: Smit, 2008
Common Name(s):
English Karoo Rock Sengi, Karoo Rock Elephant-shrew
Taxonomic Notes: In the past, the single family was included in the order Insectivora, but now the family is in the well-defined monophyletic order Macroscelidea and the newly created supercohort Afrotheria. Currently, there are 17 living sengi species recognized in four genera. The soft-furred sengis or elephant-shrews include three genera: Macroscelides and Petrodromus are each monospecific, while Elephantulus contains 11 species. The four species of giant sengis belong to the genus Rhynchocyon. The common name “sengi” is often used in place of elephant-shrew by many biologists to try and disassociate the Macroscelidea from the true shrews (family Soricidae) in the order Eulipotyphla. See the Afrotheria Specialist Group website for additional information.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2009
Date Assessed: 2008-11-18
Assessor(s): Smit-Robinson, H. & Rathbun, G.
Reviewer(s): Stuart, C. & Hoffmann, M.
The Karoo Rock Sengi has recently been described as a sister species of the CapeRock Sengi, Elephantulus edwardii. Specific information on the abundance, distribution, and population status of the new species is lacking and although no major threats are currently known, it is tentatively listed as Data Deficient pending the availability of further study and survey work.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The new species is endemic to South Africa in the Northern Cape Province and the north-western edge of Western Cape Province. The species therefore appears limited to the Nama-Karoo vegetation biome in the south-central semi-arid Karoo of South Africa. The Nama-Karoo is subdivided into Bushmanland and the Upper and Lower Karoo bioregion vegetational units (Mucina and Rutherford 2006). Based on genetic evidence, E. pilicaudus is divided into two clades. Specimens from the Upper Karoo bioregion have a different genetic profile than those from the Lower Karoo bioregion. Because there are only five known locations where the new species occurs, the distribution is not well understood, although it appears to be highly restricted. It is possible that the distributions of the Cape Rock Sengi (E. edwardii) and the Western Rock Sengi (E. rupestris) do not overlap with E. pilicaudus. Within the range of the new species, it is not likely to be continuously distributed because its boulder and rock habitats are highly fragmented. All known locations are >1,300 m above sea level.
South Africa (Northern Cape Province, Western Cape)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The abundance and population size is unknown. Despite numerous field excursions in the region, only 17 specimens of the new species from five locations in the Nama Karoo are known (three live trapped by Hannelie Smit; two trapped by Galen Rathbun, and 12 museum specimens housed in South African museums). In October 2008, a farm near Calvinia in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, where three live specimens were trapped in September 2006, was revisited by H. Smit and an effort to trap additional live specimens was unsuccessful. This reinforces the evidence of a species with a low abundance.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species is confined to rocky or boulder-strewn habitats against mountain slopes or on ridges. Based on the five locations where it has been trapped, the species may have similar ecology as its sister species the Cape Rock Sengi (E. edwardii), and the boulder- and rock-dwelling Western Rock Sengi (E. rupestris) (Corbet and Hanks 1968).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species occurs in an area of ongoing livestock farming, which poses no direct threat to the species. Because it occupies rocky and boulder habitats that are not suitable for most agricultural or urban development, there are no known threats to the Karoo Rock Sengi.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Concerted efforts should be made to assess the relative abundance of the new species and further document its apparent limited distribution. It is unknown whether the species occurs in any protected areas other than the KarooNational Park, Beaufort-West. The species is limited to a region of local endemism and shares a distribution with other Karoo endemic mammals, such as Bunolagus monticularis and Aethomys grantii, which may be an important consideration in identifying and establishing additional protected areas in the region.

Citation: Smit-Robinson, H. & Rathbun, G. 2009. Elephantulus pilicaudus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 23 May 2015.
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