home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Chrysochloris asiatica (Cape golden mole)

Kaapse gouemol, Kaapse kruipmol [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Afrotheria > Afrosoricida > Family: Chrysochloridae (golden moles) > Subfamily: Chrysochlorinae

Chrysochloris asiatica (Cape golden mole)

Cape golden mole, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Hamish Robertson, Iziko ]


The common name of the golden mole is derived from the characteristic iridescent sheen of the rich fur of the animal. They are specially adapted for a burrowing mode of life. Their bodies are compact and streamlined, a without external ear pinnae and no visible tail. The head is wedge-shaped and the skin is thick and tough. The minute eyes have almost been lost and are covered with skin. A leathery pad on the snout that aids with soil excavations protects the nostrils. The ear ossicles are very large, providing great sensitivity to vibrations in the surrounding soil, both for the detection of food and approaching danger. The golden moles are not related to mole-rats. The latter are herbivorous rodents and have small, visible eyes, short tails and massively developed chisel-like incisor teeth. The Golden moles have small pointed teeth, typical of an insectivore.

The muscular head and shoulders push and pack the soil and the strong forelimbs have large claws for digging. Three of the four digits have elongated claws with the third being particularly powerful.


Body Length 11 cm; weight range up to 50 g.

Distribution and habitat

The Cape golden mole occurs in the southwestern Cape, extending along the coastal plain up the West Coast. Commonly encountered in Cape Town gardens with sandy soils where their burrowing just below the ground leaves a path of broken, raised soil. Sometimes fall into swimming pools.

General behaviour

Golden moles are solitary each maintaining their own burrow system. They burrow just below the soil surface forming ridges, these are thought to be for foraging. These surface runs gives rise to one of their popular names amongst the gardening fraternity - “runner moles”. They also excavate deeper permanent burrows as refuges and for nesting where the excess soil is deposited on the surface as molehills.


Feed on insects and other invertebrates, e.g. earthworms and millipedes.


When they occur in gardens they are usually regarded as a nuisance because they disturb the soil and occasionally undermine plants. In fact, they are valuable allies as they eat large quantities of harmful insects and other invertebrates. Golden moles appear to be common throughout their distribution and their conservation status is evaluated to have a low risk of extinction.