Uganda is a home to a number of antelope species, including the duikers that can be encountered during Uganda safaris. These mammals are characterized by small to medium sizes and are native to Sub-Saharan Africa.
They belong to the Cephalophinae sub-family and the Cephalophus Genus. Note that duikers are different from the forest duikers that inhabit sub-Saharan rainforests and the only savannah duikers known as “Common duikers” that live in the savannah areas.
These antelopes are known to be rare and shy species that prefer living within the thick forest areas and for the savannah sub-species that live in open areas have a tendency of jumping into the thickets for safety/protection as you will discover when you encounter them during Uganda safaris.
Due to their uneven and scattered population distribution, little is known or written about them yet the generalizations have been based on the studies grey, yellow-backed, red forest as well as blue duikers. However, there are said to be over 21 sub-species of duikers, but you would be blessed to encounter at least 5 of them.
Due to their small and medium sizes, they weigh from three kilograms (for blue duikers) to over seventy kilograms (for the case of the yellow-backed duikers). They are always short in size with short horns. However, the weight and size of these antelopes depends on the sub-species.
Some species like the forest duikers are able to navigate through the dense forests and able to dive into bushes when they feel scared or threatened. The grey duikers that are common within open areas such as savannah plains have vertical horns and long horns that offer the opportunity of running faster for longer distances.
It’s the male duikers that have horns thus making them territorial and confrontational when it comes to protecting their group members. On top of reproduction, duikers always behave in extremely independent ways and prefer acting and moving alone, which also explains their limited sexual dimorphism exhibited by the majority of duiker species, well except for the common grey duikers where the females are significantly bigger and heavier than their male counterparts.
Duikers are browsers instead of grazers as we expect and consume seeds, leaves, buds, barks, buds and shoots and are known to follow flocks of birds or groups of monkeys to take up the fruits they always drop in the process of trying to consume. They sometimes eat meat, carrion and insects and occasionally small birds as well as rodents.
The lifespan of duikers is about 10 years in the natural habitats (the wild) and over 12 years in captivity. Their gestation period is from five to seven months and a single calf is usually born. Their predators include leopards, lions, hyenas, eagles as well as humans.
In conclusion, duikers are one of the commonest antelope species you are likely to encounter during African safaris and there are over 21 subspecies that include the Rwenzori duikers, black-fronted duikers, yellow-backed duikers, Peters’s duikers, blue duikers, white-legged duikers, white-bellied duikers, red forest duikers, Weyns’s duikers and zebra duikers among others.