The secretive, shy Abbott's Duiker, also often referred to as the Minde (Swahili), has the scientific name of Cephalophus spadix and belongs to the family of Bovidae, in the order of Cetartiodactyla. Believed to be one of the subspecies of another Duiker, namely the so-called Yellow-backed Duiker, this small type of antelope, one of many endangered species within Africa, is a nocturnal animal primarily dwelling within dense, mature wet forests and/ or swamps. Most commonly found at altitudes of 1,300 to 2,700 m above sea level, it has on occasion be sighted at altitudes as high as 4,000 m. In addition, the Abbott's duiker can sometimes be found in secondary and disturbed forest areas, as well as occasionally being seen on grasslands.
Abbott's Duiker Description
The Abbott's Duiker weighs in at around 50 to 60 kg and has a stocky body measuring approximately 100 to 140 cm in overall length, including the 8 to 13 cm long tail, standing at a shoulder height of about 60 to 70 cm, and featuring a thick neck and thick, short legs. A pale grey face is crowned by a very distictive, long tuft of reddish-brown hair located between two pointed, comparatively short horns, while the rest of the body is covered in a glossy, dark chestnut to black coat, with the occasional red tinge to the sides and belly.
Habits and favourite Food
Because the Abbott's Duiker not only prefers to hide away in dense vegetation, but is also mostly nocturnal, very little is known about the habits and general behaviour of this curious animal as yet. The first photo of this shy creature was, in fact, not taken until 2003, and then only with the help of a photo trap. As it stands, it is believed that Abbott's Duikers live primarily on leaves, as well as probably any fruit, moss or flowers it can find in the undergrowth. It appears this creature occasionally also captures and feeds on live prey, as this photograph showing an Abbott's Duiker with a frog in its mouth reveals.
Natural Predators of the Abbott's Duiker
Secretive as it is, the Abbott's Duiker does frequently fall prey to natural predators. Young animals are likely to be taken by pythons and Stephanoetus coronatus, the African crowned eagles, while animals of all sizes are thought to be preyed on by spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), lions (Panthera leo) and/ or leopards (Panthera pardus), depending on the specific area. Less natural, but far more devastating is hunting by humans, usually with the help of snares laid in the undergrowth, and the general reduction of suitable habitat through logging and ever expanding agriculture.
Where to find the Abbott's Duiker
Sadly, this species is now believed to be restricted to living in the forests around Tanzania, more specifically Mount Kilimanjaro, the Southern Highlands and the Tanzanian Eastern Arc Mountains. Exact figures are unknown due to the secretive nature of the Abbott's Duiker, but it is believed that only a total of around 1,500 animals now survive in widely spread, small populations. Even in protected areas, like Ulangambi/ New Dabaga Forest Reserve, Udzungwa Mountains and Kilimanjaro National Parks, illegal hunting and ever increasing loss of natural habitat are continually threatening the survival of this species.
To make matters worse, the dwindling numbers of Abbott's Duikers in the wild can not be backed up, as so far, none of these animals exist in captivity. In other words, when the species ceases to exist in the wild, all that will be left are a few photographs.