Abbott’s duiker (Cephalophus spadix)

Also known as: Abbot’s duiker
GenusCephalophus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 97 – 140 cm (2)
Tail length: 8 – 13 cm (2)
Weight50 – 60 kg (2)

Abbott's duiker is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

This secretive, forest-dwelling antelope was first photographed in the wild as recently as 2003, with the aid of a camera trap (3). Abbott's duiker (Cephalophus spadix) has a stocky body, with short, thick legs and a thick neck, and a glossy coat that varies in colour between dark chestnut-brown and black, sometimes with a reddish tinge to the belly and sides (2). The face is more pale grey in colour (2), and a long and highly distinctive tuft of reddish-brown hair sits between the fairly short, pointed horns (2) (4) (5).

Abbott’s duiker occurs only in Tanzania, where it is found in forests in the Eastern Arc Mountains, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Southern Highlands (1) (5).

Primarily an inhabitant of dense forest (6), Abbott’s duiker is most common between elevations of 1,300 and 2,700 metres, but may occur up to 4,000 metres above sea level (2). As well as mature forest, Abbott’s duiker can be found in disturbed and secondary forest, and occasionally grasslands (1).

The secretive behaviour of Abbott’s duiker, along with its largely nocturnal habits and preference for dense vegetation, has meant that little is known about the ecology and behaviour of this species (1). It has been observed feeding on leaves in the forest understorey, and on vegetation in forest clearings (1), and may feed on fruits, flowers and moss (2) (5). An Abbott’s duiker has also been seen with a frog in its mouth; duikers are known to occasionally capture and feed on live prey (3).

The cryptic habits and alertness of Abbott’s duiker unfortunately does not protect it entirely from predation. Young Abbott’s duikers are probably preyed on by African crowned eagles (Stephanoetus coronatus) and pythons (Python species), while duikers of all ages may fall victim to leopards (Panthera pardus) (1). Lions (Panthera leo) and spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) may also hunt this duiker species in some areas (1).

Like many other duikers, Abbott’s duiker is being impacted by a combination of hunting and habitat destruction (1) (2) (5). Hunted for its meat, Abbott’s duiker falls prey to snares laid in the forests it inhabits, even within so-called protected areas (1) (7), while suitable habitat is gradually encroached upon by agriculture and logging (1) (2) (5). These human activities have resulted in the extinction of Abbott’s duiker in areas where it once occurred, and in 2008 the total population of Abbott’s duiker was estimated at fewer than 1,500 individuals (1).

Although Abbott’s duiker occurs within several protected areas, such as the Kilimanjaro National Park, Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and New Dabaga/Ulangambi Forest Reserve, this does not completely protect this duiker from the threats of habitat loss and illegal hunting (1) (2) (5). In the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, there are current efforts to employ hunters in environmental education initiatives in exchange for the cessation of hunting. The Abbott’s duiker is also being used as a flagship species in village education programmes. This will hopefully be beneficial for many forest-dwelling animals, including the Abbott’s duiker (1). The expansion of certain protected areas to incorporate other important forests inhabited by Abbott’s duiker (1), in addition to the enforcement of hunting bans within those areas (7), may be essential if this Endangered duiker is to survive.

For further information on conservation in Tanzania:

Authenticated (13/05/09) by Karl R. Kranz, Executive Vice President for Animal Programs and Chief Operating Officer, Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Ltd, London.
  3. Rovero, F., Jones, T. and Sanderson, J. (2005) Notes on Abbott's duiker (Cephalophus spadix True 1890) and other forest antelopes of Mwanihana Forest, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania, as revealed by camera-trapping and direct observations. Tropical Zoology, 18: 13 - 23.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Wilson, V.J. (2005) Duikers of Africa: Masters of the African Forest Floor. Zimbi Books, Pretoria, South Africa.
  6. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  7. Nielson, M.R. (2006) Importance, cause and effect of bushmeat hunting in the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania: Implications for community based wildlife management. Biological Conservation, 128: 509 - 516.