Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Macroscelidea Macroscelididae

Scientific Name: Rhynchocyon chrysopygus
Species Authority: Günther, 1881
Common Name(s):
English Golden-rumped Sengi, Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew
Taxonomic Source(s): Corbet, G.B. and Hanks, J. 1968. A revision of the elephant-shrews, family Macroscelididae. Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Zoology) 16: 1-111.
Taxonomic Notes: In the past the single family was included in the order Insectivora, but now the family is in the monophyletic order Macroscelidea and the newly created super-cohort Afrotheria. Currently, there are 19 living species recognized in four genera. The soft-furred sengis or elephant-shrews include three genera: Petrodromus is monospecific, Macroscelides contains three species, and Elephantulus contains 11 species. The four species of giant sengis belong to the genus Rhynchocyon. The common name "sengi" is being used in place of elephant-shrew by many biologists to try and disassociate the Macroscelidea from the true shrews (family Soricidae) in the order Soricomorpha. See the Afrotheria Specialist Group web site and for additional information.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2013-11-25
Assessor(s): FitzGibbon, C. & Rathbun, G.B.
Reviewer(s): Taylor, A.
The most important site for the species is Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, providing 372 km2 of habitat, supporting ca 10,000–20,000 individuals. The species was also recorded in five out of an additional 13 small patches of coastal forest surveyed north of Mombasa in the early 1990s (FitzGibbon 1994). However these forest patches, many of which are kayas (sites held sacred by the Mijikenda people), are all very small (mostly less than 1 km2) and their continued existence is in doubt. The species is not restricted to true forest, also occurring in some scrub and degraded woodland habitats, although usually at low densities (FitzGibbon 1994). These secondary habitats probably cover less than 500 km2 (FitzGibbon 1994). Boni Forest (ca 133 km2), and small forest patches nearby, may provide additional habitat but there is currently no information on the status of the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew in this area. They are not thought to occur in Witu Forest (Rathbun 1979b), probably because it is a ground-water forest. The species is listed as Endangered B1ab(iii,v), based on having an extent of occurrence less than 5,000 km2, severely fragmented habitat, and continuing decline in extent of habitat and number of mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Endangered (EN)
2006 Endangered (EN)
1996 Endangered (EN)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is endemic to Kenya and occurs in fragmented and small forest patches inland from Mombasa (on the north side of the Kombeni River near the Rabai Hills) north through the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to just short of the southern side of the Tana River (Corbet and Hanks 1968; Rathbun 1979a,b; FitzGibbon 1994; Adange et al. 2010).
Countries occurrence:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population densities in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest decreased by ca 30% between 1993 and 1996 from an estimated 20,000 to 14,000 individuals (Bauer 1996, FitzGibbon 1994), and between 1996 and 2008 another 9% reduction may have occurred (Ngaruiya 2009). Population trends in other areas are unknown, except for the small population at Gede Ruins National Monument (an area of 44 ha), which declined significantly between the early 1970s (population estimated at ca 70 individuals; Rathbun 1979a) and the early 1990s (population estimated at <15 individuals; FitzGibbon 1994), and despite dogs that were preying on the sengis being fenced out, the population in 2008 was estimated at only 20 individuals (Ngaruiya 2009). There have been no population estimates for this sengi since those completed in 2009 by Ngaruiya. Clearance of woodland and scrub in many coastal areas where this sengi used to occur likely continues, probably resulting in further overall population declines. In addition, many of the forests outside the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest are very small and thus susceptible to reduction in area and quality from human activities such as clearing, pole harvesting, and uncontrolled fires. This reduction in habitat likely results in sengi population reductions. Additionally, the small sengi populations that are located in small and fragmented forests are highly susceptible to decline and local extinction due to stochastic factors.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 13000 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Golden-rumped Sengi is found in forest, dense woodland, and thicket habitats that support dense leaf litter on the ground. They eat a wide range of invertebrates, including beetles, termites, earth worms, and millipedes. They are diurnal and form monogamous pairs (Rathbun 1979a). They spend the night on the forest floor in leaf nests, which have been used to estimate relative abundance (FitzGibbon and Rathbun 1994). They produce single precocial young about every 2-3 months throughout the year. In many regards, their general natural history is best understood if one considers them a combination of a small ant-eater and a miniature antelope (Rathbun 1979a).
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: FitzGibbon et al. (1995) documented subsistence hunting, which is assumed to continue to the present, but it is not known whether numbers taken are increasing or decreasing. Given the increase in the human population in coastal Kenya, one could assume that hunting pressure has increased.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Outside of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the major threat to this species is likely to be habitat loss (Rathbun and Kyalo 2000), as a result of clearance of scrub and woodland. Many of the kaya (sacred) forests have been severely degraded by tree felling and pole collecting, and their boundaries eroded by agricultural encroachment and fire. Habitat loss not only results in a reduced distribution, but also increases isolation of the remaining small populations. Within Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the species appears to be adversely affected by logging (but not pole collecting), primarily in the Cynometra habitat type. This may be due to the resulting reduction in leaf litter and canopy cover, and the loss of hollow trunks used as refuges (FitzGibbon 1994, Bauer 1996, Rathbun and Kyalo 2000, Ngaruiya 2009); trapping by woodcarvers who camp in the Cynometra habitat for long periods and trap a variety of wildlife for food may also be contributing to the decline. It was estimated in the early 1990s that about 3,000 Golden-rumped Sengis were being caught per year by hunters in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. At that time the species was not being targeted by hunters (it has an unpleasant taste, is not attracted to bait and does not make obvious trails along which traps could be set), it was primarily caught in traps and snares designed for other animals (particularly the Four-toed Sengi, Petrodromus tetradactylus), and overall trapping was considered unlikely to be having a significant impact on population levels (FitzGibbon et al. 1995). Although trapping intensity in Arabuko-Sokoke was being reduced by forest guard patrols in the 1990s, unrestricted trapping in un-patrolled areas may have had a negative impact in those large areas. It is not known what protection measures are currently in effect. Predation by dogs may be an additional threat close to areas of habitation (FitzGibbon 1994).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Arabuko-Sokoke Forest was the focus of a project to promote long-term conservation of the forest through sustainable management and community participation in forest conservation (Rathbun and Kyalo 2000). A 25-year Strategic Management Plan (2002 to 2027) has been developed for this forest. Golden-rumped Sengis were being monitored in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest under a three year (2003 - 2005) USAID funded project run by Nature Kenya (the Kenyan partner to BirdLife International), but the results have not been assessed. The forest is managed jointly by the Forest Department and Kenya Wildlife Service. The kaya forests are the subject of a project run by the Coast Forest Conservation Unit (National Museums of Kenya), which assists local communities to re-establish effective local control over resources in these sacred forests. Through the efforts of the CFCU, these forests have been gazetted as National Monuments, a legal status which prevents development and encroachment, but provides only limited protection for biodiversity. Despite these past efforts, it is not clear what the current status of the forest habitats for this sengi are, nor are there recent accurate estimates on abundance, so we are left with the reasonable assumption that habitat and sengi population declines continue due to the various anthropogenic factors identified in the past.

Citation: FitzGibbon, C. & Rathbun, G.B. 2015. Rhynchocyon chrysopygus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T19705A21287265. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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