Tree Shrews

Tupaiidae spp.

Tree shrews, such as the common tree shrew and painted tree shrew, are native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, India and southern China. These small, squirrel-like mammals are not actually shrews and are more closely related to primates.

Tree shrews are omnivorous, eating fruit, insects and small invertebrates. In the wild, some tree shrews are social, living in small groups and defending their territory from intruders. Most species are diurnal; only the pen-tailed tree shrew is nocturnal.

Did You Know?

The main threat to tree shrews worldwide is loss of habitat.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Some Cause for Concern

Most wild populations of tree shrews are believed to be declining. Six species are considered endangered or vulnerable to extinction. The main threat to tree shrews worldwide is loss of habitat. Unfortunately future declines are expected as logging and human development continue to destroy their habitats.

Very little is known about the extent of illegal capture and trade of tree shrews, but there is recent anecdotal evidence that wild-caught tree shrews are sold in the animal markets of India.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The tree shrew is not a recommended pet.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Some Cause for Concern

There is no evidence that tree shrews have established wild populations outside their native range. However, they are omnivorous and some species are able to adapt to disturbed habitats, so experts believe that, given the proper conditions, tree shrews could be invasive.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Significant Cause for Concern

Tree shrews, like most non-domesticated mammals, require specialized care. Captive animals need large cages with nest boxes, access to climbing structures, and other forms of stimulation. Tree shrews also need to be kept in the proper social environment or they may suffer from stress that can lead to health problems such as weight loss and chronic depression. Tree shrews can also be very aggressive with one another, sometimes causing injuries that lead to death.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The tree shrew is not a recommended pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Unable to Rank

Shrews may harbor diseases such as Salmonella and dermatophytosis of risk to humans. Diseases of shrews are less researched and still undergoing discovery.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The tree shrew is not a recommended pet. However, before purchasing a non-traditional pet, ensure the animal was captive bred vs. wild caught. Be sure to ask if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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