Friday, September 30, 2011

Duikers - Resourceful Antelopes

Duikers, small antelopes native to Sub-Saharan Africa, don’t have an easy life.

Most of the 19 duiker species are quite small, weighing as little as eight pounds fully grown. They also happen to live in close proximity to some of the animal kingdom’s fiercest predators and are hunted by lions, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, pythons, eagles, and even feral dogs. To make things more difficult, duikers don’t travel in the safety of a herd, instead living solitary lives in the underbrush of African rainforests.

Despite all of this adversity, duikers manage to survive because they are extremely resourceful. Like most ungulates, duikers prefer to feed on a variety of shoots, grasses and fruits and will follow groups of monkeys to feed on what they drop from trees. However, when food is scarce duikers will resort to eating eggs, carrion and even hunting small lizards and birds.
Most species of duikers are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. However, if human activity begins to occur in a duiker’s territory it will often quickly become nocturnal to avoid hunters. In the event that a duiker is spotted by a hunter or predator it will usually dart into a thicket and freeze rather than run. The duiker’s short front legs and narrow snout allow it to traverse thicker underbrush than most animals, and this technique often allows it to escape or go undetected.

Though some species are still quite common, this extremely shy little antelope is in decline throughout Africa. Loss of habitat and overhunting have led to some of the rarer species becoming endangered.

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