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Common Duiker @ Tembe Elephant Park. Photo: Håvard Rosenlund

Common Duiker

Common duiker - Sylvicapra grimmia - Distribution mapThe common duiker, or grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia) is a widespread small species of antelope. The name “duiker” is an Afrikaans word, which means “diver”, and comes from the way they dive away from danger into the bush when threatened. Though often called the grey duiker, color varies greatly between populations throughout its vast geographical range in sub-Saharan Africa, with reddish-yellow, light brown and grey being common variations. Only males have the small straight horns, whereas the females are lager. Both sexes have a black line on their face from the nose and up. Common duiker can reach 50 cm (20 in) to the shoulder and weigh between 12-25 kg (26-55 lb).

Diet and habitat

Common duiker can live in various habitats but are not common in forests and deserts. They prefer areas that are open but with sufficient cover for hiding and are rarely seen out in the open for long. You often find common duikers hiding in tall grass or amongst thickets. They are browsers and feed on leaves from small trees and bushes as well as seeds, fruits, pods, flowers, roots, bark and fungi. Common duiker is also the only antelope known to feed on insects as well as nestling birds. They will often follow monkeys and eat leftovers falling to the ground.

Social behaviour and reproduction

Common duikers are solitary and territorial animals. They are most active in the very late hours or very early hours and often into the night. Males and females share territories and will only chase away individuals of the same sex. The male and female generally only come together when mating. They will mark territories using scent glands in their hooves as well as the preorbital glands seen as slits on either side of the face. Gestation period might vary, but six months is common. The lamb will stay hidden most of the time while the mother forages in between sessions of suckling. Lambs are well-developed at birth and are able to run within a day. A common duiker is sexually mature at eight months old, and common lifespan is 8-11 years.

Predation

Common duiker is preyed on by multiple predatory species, but are commonly taken by leopards, eagles, pythons and jackals. Though they will normally run away from danger, common duikers can defend themselves with their sharp hooves and males can use their horns. If caught they will give out a cry to attract other duikers, and if a lamb, a call to attract its mother.

Status

A part from the horn of Africa and the central African rain forest regions the common duiker is common throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Through its ability to adapt to many habitats and diets it is often considered the most succesful antelope species in Africa. There are believed to be 19 subspecies throughout its range, and there are no immediate threats to the population and it is thus considered least concern on the IUCN Red List.

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