Named for the 12 to 15 black bands that, like a zebra, stretch down its back, the zebra duiker is a diminutive antelope with a short, stocky body. Its coat colour varies from light gold to a reddish-brown, with a pale cream underside. Another distinctive feature is the lack of a tuft on the forehead, which most other duiker species possess (4)(5). Both males and females grow short, tapering horns which are used to defend their territory (6), and although females are generally larger than the males, the male possesses longer horns (5). Juveniles appear slightly bluer in colouration than the adults and have closer stripes (7). The name ‘duiker’ is the Afrikaans word for ‘diver’ or ‘diving buck’ and refers to the flight of the antelope into the undergrowth when disturbed (5).
The zebra duiker is found either alone or in a breeding pair. Paired duikers will often mutually rub each other’s scent glands, apparently to reinforce the pair bond and aid in sexual communication (4). A single calf is born once a year after a gestation period of between 221 and 229 days (9). Juveniles attain adult colouration and size at around seven to nine months, and males are known to reach sexual maturity at two years (7).
The diet of the this diurnal duiker consists primarily of fruit, alongside a variety of leaves, buds, shoots and grasses (7)(10). Often unable to reach fruit in the trees, the small zebra duiker instead takes advantage of fruit dropped onto the forest floor by other animals that feed in the trees (7).
Whilst several other species of duiker are vulnerable to population decline as a result of over-hunting, this has not been found to be a significant threat to the zebra duiker (11), probably due to this elusive species being rarely seen by humans. The main threat to its survival, as with many other African species, is loss of habitat through deforestation. In 1999 the zebra duiker population was estimated at 28,000 and is noted to be steadily declining (1).
The zebra duiker is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). Now largely restricted to patches of primary forest, the zebra duiker’s existence may depend on the continued preservation of these forests. Fortunately, some of these areas are protected, including Sapo National Park in Liberia and Tai National Park in the Ivory Coast (1).
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