Common duikers are dapper little antelopes that occur widely across Southern Africa.
Common or grey duikers are the largest of the duiker species found within the Kruger National Park, with rams growing to weigh 12,9kg (28,4lb) on average reaching roughly 50cm in height compared to the 52cm of females, who weigh 13,7kg (30,1lb) on average. Their horns are more visible than the other duiker species, and are also larger. They are a grey-brown color all over, with slight reddish fur on their heads under their thorn-like horns. They have long faces with distinct charcoal-colored nose bridges that fade into the red fur on the forehead and upwards.
Common duikers are very abundantly found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from the northern part of this range on the edge of the Sahara Desert, right down to Cape Point down in South Africa. They are not always introduced to an area or bought by private land owners, yet they still manage to make areas like this their home. The Kruger National Park has common duikers quite literally in every corner of the park. From the Lowveld areas of the southern part of the park, to the grasslands near its core and beyond through its Mopane forests to the more tropical forest areas as you pass the Tropic of Capricorn; all these areas can be called home by some duiker family or another.
The common duiker’s conservation status, updated through studies in January of 2016, show that it indeed does justice to the 'common' part of its name, with estimations for their population well in the 6-digit range and even close to 7-digits according to some, who speculate that the population is around ten million. There are no real threats to their very healthy state, and their population will almost certainly remain the same for the duration of the near future, despite potential habitat loss and over-hunting by many growing settlements in central and more northern African countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania.
The adaptiveness of common duikers has largely contributed to their healthy state as a species and their abundance in many ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa. They live in any environment with enough vegetation to hide from predators. Their color and size may differ amongst individuals from different environments as they have adapted to different levels of humidity, vegetation, water and temperatures within that particular environment. Grey Duikers have even managed to survive within suburbs of towns and cities where they have replaced their regular diet with leaves, fruits and flowers from garden plants. Their populations are at their peak in savanna and woodland areas.
Common duikers are also territorial and have only 1 mate at a time, differing from most dwarf antelope species that form lifelong bonds with their mates. Both sexes have their own home ranges, and usually there is at least one female’s home range within the territory of a male, with whom she then mates. The territories of males are also patrolled, and marked by glands that they use to secrete a substance which contains their smell. Males chase each other at high speed and threaten one another with their horns when one violates the territory of another.
These light-footed, small creatures are most active during the early hours of the morning and in the late afternoon or right through the day on overcast days when it is cooler. They have become almost solely nocturnal in areas where they are hunted during the day, again showing their adaptiveness. Their days are occupied by protecting territory, amongst males, and feeding on the different fruits, pods and flowers the flora of the forest has to offer, if they are not interrupted by the ever-present predators.
Duikers have no clear seasonal time of breeding, and are thought to reproduce at any period of the year. Their courtship involves the classic actions; leg lifting, calling out to each other; testing each other’s urine and rubbing against each other. They start copulating within half an hour from the start of this process of courtship. Gestation periods of duikers in different areas vary and are not clear, some 3 months and up to 7 months in other areas. After birth the mother keeps her offspring concealed for a few weeks, even though they are able to run after only three days.
When in danger, duikers send out distress calls in the form of a bleating sound. This sound has been known to attract larger predators like hyenas and leopards when played by hunters. When their fawn are threatened by predators, males and even females have been seen attacking small predators such as baboons or python, bumping them, puffing at them and even charging at them. If they are not spotted by predators, duikers usually hide within dense vegetation and try to remain unnoticed. The sharp horns of duikers easily pierce the skin of snakes when ingested, and most certainly are not the ideal meal.
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