Water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus)
|Spanish:||Antilope Amizclero Enano De Agua|
|Size||Head-body length: 60 – 102 cm (2)|
Tail length: 7.5 – 15 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 30 – 40 cm (2)
|Weight||7 – 16 kg (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Chevrotains, also known as mouse deer, are the intermediates in appearance between pigs and deer (3). The water chevrotain has, like the other three chevrotain species, a compact body with a short, thick neck and small, narrow head. The limbs appear short and thin in relation to its bulky body, and its feet resemble miniature pig’s trotters. The sleek coat of the water chevrotain is reddish-brown marked with distinctive white streaks and bold spots, and the tail reveals a vivid white underside when raised. Dense, thick skin on the rump and throat protect it from bites from the sharp canines of other water chevrotains (2); the canine teeth of the male are long and protrude outside the mouth, while those of the female are more peg-like. Male water chevrotains are smaller than females, weighing about 20 percent less (3).
Occurs in western and central Africa rain forests, from Guinea to Gabon, and east to western Uganda (2) (4).
The water chevrotain inhabits river valleys within lowland rainforest, along the edges of swamps and streams (2), usually within 250 metres of freshwater (5).
Water chevrotains are, except for during the mating season, solitary animals (3), with females inhabiting isolated home ranges and male ranges overlapping those of at least two females (2). Ranges are marked with faeces impregnated with anal gland secretions, and urine (3). Shy and secretive animals, water chevrotains are mostly active at night and are never found without the protection of dense cover in the day (2) (3). Their small size makes them fairly easy prey for a number of predators; when threatened the chevrotain either stands motionless amongst vegetation, or can dive into water (2). As its name suggests, it is capable in water, but can only swim for short periods before tiring (2) (3).
Fallen fruits, such as figs, palm nuts and breadfruit make up the majority of the water chevrotain’s diet, although it has also been known to feed on insects, crabs, scavenged meat and fish. It relies on its sense of smell to locate food (2), and being ruminants, they have a gut modified to ferment the food (3)
A single young is born each year after a gestation of around four months. The young chevrotain lies up for the first three months of its life, receiving frequent nourishment from its mother’s milk during periodic visits (2). At around nine months, the young are weaned and disperse from their mother’s range. While water chevrotains are believed to be able to live for up to 13 years, few survive beyond eight years of age (2).
Hunting has reduced numbers of the water chevrotain in many parts of its range (2), particularly in Gabon where it is hunted intensively by local people for food (5). The water chevrotain is also known to be affected by human disturbance, such as expanding agriculture, and animals leaving disturbed areas are unlikely to survive (2).
A Conservation Action Plan for deer species was published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Deer Specialist Group in 1998. The primary measure outlined for the water chevrotain was to undertake further research to determine the species’ status in the wild (5). The water chevrotain is also known to occur in a number of protected areas, such as Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (6). However, protecting the water chevrotain from the significant threat of bushmeat hunting is unlikely to occur through these measures alone; it is a complex issue requiring a diversity of approaches, including education, the implementation and enforcement of laws, and anti-poaching operations (7).
For further information on the bushmeat trade; the problems and the solutions, see:
- Bushmeat Crisis Task Force:
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- Bushmeat: the meat derived from wildlife of African forests, or ‘bush’.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)