Monday, March 10, 2008


A flash of burnt orange, briefly glimpsed through the thick coastal vegetation of the isiMangaliso Wetland Park means you are in the territory of the Red Duiker, Cephalophus natalensis, the third smallest of our indigenous antelope. (The Blue Duiker and the Suni are smaller). Once common from the Sudan all down the East Coast of Africa to southern KwaZulu-Natal (where they inhabited coastal forests and thickets, low-lying riverine growth, escarpment and montane forests), widespread clearing for agriculture has greatly reduced its range. A diversity of trees that may flower and fruit through most of the year are prerequisites for its presence and though still fairly common it is now found in fragmented communities where the correct habitat still occurs. The upper parts of the body of KwaZulu-Natal specimens are a deep chestnut-red colour, the lower part of the flanks and the under parts a pale chestnut. The nape and throat turn ash-grey as the animal ages. They have a crest of long bushy hair on the top of the head which is partly chestnut, partly black in colour and often conceals the horns. The sides of the head, the sides and under parts of the neck and inner upper surfaces of the limbs are tawny or pale fawn, the throat white. The ears are short and rounded with a fringe of black hair on the outside margins, the insides whitish. The upper parts of the neck, the pasterns and hind part of the hocks are dark in colour, with a tinge of dull violet or grey. In front and below the eyes there is a bare glandular patch about 20 mm long on which opens a series of elongated pores from which small bristles arise. On pressure these pores exude a clear sticky fluid with a faint aromatic odour. Exudate from these glands is dabbed onto stems and branches by the animal as it moves about its home range. Both sexes carry a pair of short, straight horns which have coarse basal rings and longitudinal striations but are smooth towards the tips. Red duikers are usually found either solitarily or a female with her offspring, or in pairs or small groups (3-5) in a loose association. If alarmed they emit a hoarse alarm "whistle". They are diurnal and use communal dung heaps. Red duikers browse primarily on fallen leaves, wild fruits and flowers and fine stems of low-growing shrubs. The females have two pairs of inguinal mammae.
GIVE AWAY QUESTIONWhat is the line below the eye of the Red Duiker in the picture?E-mail us an answer on First correct e-mail wins a mystery prize. (Courtesy of Exclusive Books, midlands mall and KZN Wildlife)

No comments:

Post a Comment