Bates’ pygmy antelope (Neotragus batesi)

Also known as: Dwarf antelope
GenusNeotragus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 50 - 57 cm (2)
Tail length: 4.5 - 8 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 24 - 33 cm (2)
Weight2 - 3 kg (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Bates’ pygmy antelope is one of the smallest ungulates in East Africa (2), and its petite size combined with its inconspicuous coat makes it a secretive animal as it moves about its dense habitat. Its rather glossy fur is a warm mahogany brown on the upperparts and white below (3) (4), while its tail is dark brown (5). The only distinctive details in its colouring are the black and white markings on the ears, and the broad white band down the throat (4). The slender build of Bates’ pygmy antelope (3), along with its long, powerful hindlegs, arched back and short neck, makes it well suited to moving quickly through thick vegetation (5). Female pygmy antelopes are typically a little larger than males, but the male can also easily be spotted by its smooth, brown horns, which extend up to five centimetres and slope gently backwards (3). 

Bates’ pygmy antelope occurs in three separated regions in West and Central Africa: south-eastern Nigeria; southern Cameroon, south-western Central African Republic, Gabon and the Republic of Congo; and north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo into south-western Uganda (1).

This diminutive antelope inhabits moist, lowland forest, where it favours areas of dense cover such as dense undergrowth along rivers and areas of tree fall. It may also be found along road sides, village gardens, plantations, and in forest that is regenerating after cultivation or logging (1). It is especially common in cocoa plantations (2).

Bates’ pygmy antelope is a predominantly solitary species, with each individual inhabiting its own home range, although the range of a male often overlaps that of two females (4). Males are territorial and will mark their range with secretions from their preorbital glands (4).

It is an entirely folivorous species, and thus to gain enough energy from this rather innutritious diet of leaves, its daily activity and yearly movements are largely dictated by the need to obtain sufficient quantities of digestible foliage (4). Within its range, Bates’ pygmy antelope will move around a number of suitable feeding sites on rotation, spending one to two months in each area (3).

Bates’ pygmy antelope apparently mates throughout the year, but peaks of mating activity occur in the late dry and early wet seasons. Young are born after a gestation period lasting six months (4). Males reach sexual maturity at some time between 8 and 18 months, while females become sexually mature at around 16 months (3). 

Although Bates’ pygmy antelope is hunted for its meat, it is not currently considered to be threatened (1). However, should the currently sparse human population within its range suddenly increase, then this species could find itself subject to levels of hunting and forest destruction it cannot easily withstand (1). 

Its ability to inhabit gardens, plantations and other disturbed areas show that this antelope is not likely to be greatly affected by the habitat degradation that may affect other forest-dwelling species. However, protected areas may still play an essential part in this species’ future, particularly if human populations rapidly grow (1). Currently, Bates’ pygmy antelope occurs in a number of protected areas, such as Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lope Reserve in Gabon (1) (6).

For further information on the conservation of African wildlife see:

Authenticated (24/03/10) by Dr David Mallon, Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Kingdon, J. (1982) East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Volume 3: Bovids. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. UNEP-WCMC Protected Areas Programme (November 2008)