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BLUE DUIKER / BLOU BOKKIE (Cephalophus monticola)

When South Cape author Dalene Matthee came to describe the blue duiker in her novel Circles in the Forest, she said that they were “the most beautiful of them all … So tiny, so nimble of foot…”


WHY THE BREEDING PROGRAMME ON FEATHERBED NATURE RESERVE?

The blue duiker appears on the Endangered List and is facing extinction in its natural habitat. The destruction of approx. 200 000 ha of the Southern Cape’s indigenous forest over the past two hundred years, has severely limited the blue duikers range and has impacted heavily on their breeding status.

It was with this in mind that the owner of Featherbed Nature Reserve decided to start a breeding programme on the reserve in 1985. This programme has been a great success. The size of the breeding camps (although seemingly small) are ideal to encourage mating while providing adequate shelter and protection.

Public are not permitted into the main breeding encampment on the reserve. The intention of this encampment is to allow the visitor to see only a few of the blue duiker easily. These blue duiker have become accustomed to limited interaction with people, which has made them quite tame. Sometimes they may even lick your finger through the fence …. enjoying the taste of the salt on your skin.

Sweet natured and beautiful in appearance, the blue duiker deserves every conservation effort.


 
CLASSIFICATION & DISTRIBUTION

  • Sixteen subspecies occur in sub-Saharan Africa, of which three, with distinct colour forms, are found in Southern Africa.
  • The sub-species of the Southern Cape ( those found at Featherbed ) is known as Cephalophus monticola with the common name being Blue-duiker or Blou Bokkie.
  • The blue duiker are also found on the Eastern Coasts of South Africa, throughout Kwa-Zulu Natal, Swaziland, Mozambique & Eastern Zimbabwe.
  • REPRODUCTION
  • During courtship the male prances before the female, nibbling at her back & shoulders, rubbing his pre-orbital glands against her cheeks & presenting his horns.
  • The gestation period is approximately 4 months. One lamb is born weighing about 490g & doubling his/her weight within 30 days.
  • The male may cover the female again within 14 days. Males reach sexual maturity at 9 months & females at 16-17 months.
  • They breed throughout the year, and may take temporary mates or mate for life.
  • HABITAT
  • Their ideal natural habitat would be dense bush, thickets or forests where water is readily available.
  • Within these environments they are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.
  • At night they come into less sheltered areas at the forest’s edge. During the daytime they are very alert & approach these areas with great caution.
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    FOOD (In Nature)

  • The blue duikers in the breeding camps are fed: sheep pellets; fruit; leaves and soft stems of the rooikans (acacia cyclops) branches.
  • They also eat a variety of leaves of the underbush, ferns, shoots forest herbs and fallen fruits found in the forest.
  • They drink plenty of water.
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    ENEMIES (In Nature)
  • Common enemies in the area are the Rooikat ( Lynx / Caracal) & the Mountain Leopard.
  • The Blue Duiker is also preyed upon by Crowned Eagles, pythons.
  • Have been and are heavily poached by man.
  • A snared or otherwise caught Duiker gives utterance to pitiful, loud and strangely cat-like meowing.
  • Duikers leave well-marked trails or paths as they need to drink water every day, so they are easily trapped in snares.
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    APPEARANCE
  • Smallest antelope in Southern Africa, approx. 30 cm at shoulder height (although smaller in height than the Damara dik-dik, it is heavier in mass).
  • Adult males weigh approx. 4kg & females 4.6kg.
  • Colour varies from dark reddish-brown to dark greyish-brown. They are darker on their backs with a blueish sheen, while their bellies, throats & chests are slightly lighter in colour. The tail is white underneath as are the front of their rounded ears, the back of their ears are dark grey.
  • Both sexes have short horns (males approximately 45mm & females approximately 30mm). The horns slope backwards following the line of the face.
  • Blue Duikers are equipped with pre-orbital glands, (on the sides of the face, below the eyes ) which are a type of scent gland, used for marking their territory & also during the mating process.
  • They have pedal glands between their hooves for marking their movements in their forest habitat.
  • COMMON HABITS

  • Very shy, secretive, silent, timid creatures & are seldom seen.
  • Commonly live in pairs, sometimes with sub-adult offspring.
  • Highly territorial, and each breeding pair usually remains within a limited area of between
    4 and 6 ha.
  • Both male & female scent markings are present in their chosen territory.
  • They usually forage, sleep & rest close to or next to one another. Established pairs groom each other frequently & often go through extensive greetings – rubbing noses, pre-orbital glands, head tufts & shoulders. These extensive greetings occasionally occur between “foreign” Duikers as well.
  • After weaning, males are usually more protective & are more often seen with the young. Lone females are also known to be very protective, however, it is not known how long the mother and lamb stay together.
  • Like all Duikers, the Blue Duiker has a jerky, zig-zag action as it darts through the bush.
  • Being so small, it can move freely below the undergrowth, and it is well camouflaged, making it almost invisible, it may only be spotted due to the constant flicking of its tail which exposes the white in tiny flashes.
  • DID YOU KNOW ?????
  • The male blue duiker while courting a female nibbles her neck and shoulders in order to wipe his scent glands on her face.
  • both the male and female have horns
  • the male is called a ram, the female an ewe and the baby a lamb
  • the word ‘ duiker ‘ comes from the Afrikaans word meaning diver, this describes its characteristic ‘ diving ’ action when fleeing
  • that the blue duiker is known as one of the DWARF antelope species in Africa, the smallest antelope in Africa is known as the Royal antelope – Neotragus pygmeus found in West African forests.
  • the blue duiker is the size of a long ruler that learners use at school.
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