Did you know?
Duiker means ‘diver’ in Afrikaans, and refers to this small antelope's habit of leaping into undergrowth to escape.
One of Africa’s smallest antelope, not much taller than a child’s ruler, lives in South Africa’s southern forests.
The tiny blue duiker can be spotted at dawn and dusk, when it is most active, looking for fallen fruits, flowers, fresh leaves and even bird eggs.
Not much taller than a scrub hare, it weighs between 4kg and 4.6kg.
Its colouring, as the name suggests, ranges from a reddish-brown (when young) through blue-grey to dark slate blue.
But that won’t be what draws your attention – mostly the only sign of a blue duiker will be a steady white flicker from its tail, a movement that helps it keep contact with its mate and its young. You’ll recognise it by the slits under its eyes – what zoologists call sub-orbital glands.
It rubs these against areas to mark its territory. Mated duiker also rub them against each other. They mostly mate for life, and are very affectionate, licking each other’s faces throughout the day.
When courting, the male will prance in front of the female, then nibble her back and shoulders. They’ll often play together, and usually produce 1 or 2 young (referred to as a lamb) a year.
In South Africa, they are mostly found in the dense thickets and coastal forests of KwaZulu-Natal through the Eastern Cape to around Tsitsikamma. Keep a lookout for them at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Mkuze Game Reserve and forested Ndumo Game Reserve, all in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
But they’re also found further north – in limited areas of Zimbabwe and Mozambique and in greater numbers in central and west Africa.
The populations have been isolated for many years. Their vulnerability to snaring (they traverse the same paths every day) has meant their numbers are decreasing.
Fortunately, though, there are some breeding programmes that are helping to boost their numbers.
Apart from keeping a beady eye out for them in forest clearings at the bookends of the day, you’ll be able to see them at the Featherbed Nature Reserve near Knysna, and at an endangered species breeding area at Mlilwane Game Reserve in Swaziland.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Featherbed Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)44 382 1693
Mlilwane Game Reserve
Big Game Parks, Swaziland
Tel: +268 2528 3943/4