safariBwana newsletter

DUIKER - sylvicapra & cephalophus

Duikers are one of the most widespread species on the continent and are a major source of protein in many villages as they live in close proximity to man and are easy to snare. In fact, in parts of north and west Africa, duikers are thought to feed off the garbage and waste of humans as they are often being found near dumping sites.

They are generally a small antelope, although a few of the forest duikers grow larger and all have straight, ringed horns with a characteristic tuft of hair on the top of their head. Usually, only males have horns but some of the females may grow small horns.

The species is typically divided into two groups; the bush or savanna duikers (sylvicapra) and the forest duikers (cephalophus). Bush Duikers include the Southern and Eastern subspecies. Forest duiker include the Red Duiker which is an attractive orange colour and develops a blueish neck with age and the Blue Duiker, which is amongst the smallest of the forest duikers and South Africa's smallest antelope, and takes on a bluish shine along their backs with grey lower bodies and brown legs. Considering the amount of dense tropical rainforest in central Africa, there is more variation in the forest duikers' colour and size.

Blue Duiker CITES
There are no restrictions on the bush duikers but various forest duikers are listed.

Part of the duiker's success is its ability to live off almost anything and it is thought that they will even consume rotting meat. They are well adapted to living around man and are often hunted at night with a torch or headlamp by farmers as a source of table meat. In fact, many settler farming families around the 1950s survived on duiker meat.

Red Duiker are extremely skittish animals and appear to be on some form of "narcotic" or "speed" as they feed, jumping off to one side and then the next, never seeming to keep still. Blue Duiker are largely nocturnal and come out into fields or open areas along the edge of thickets.

a compromsing situation!

hunting tips - the hunt
The bush duikers are widespread throughout Southern Africa as the habitat suits them well and are usually nocturnal. They are easily hunted by using a predator-calling device and will often run towards the noise. Many people prefer to use shotguns in these circumstances however most animals are shot with the common calibers which do not cause excessive damage.

The forest duikers are possibly more difficult to hunt as a result of their habitat but they do come readily to calls and are easily taken with a shotgun. 

Often the best way to hunt red duiker is waiting near fruit trees as they eat fallen fruits. Calling does not have the same effect on them as it does with other duikers. Blue duiker respond very well to calling and will often run smack into the caller if one does not shoot quickly enough. 

The difference in subspecies makes them an interesting challenge as one often has to travel to specific countries for one subspecies.

Although duikers are timid, they are not unknown to show an aggressive side and their sharp straight horns and hooves can cause serious damage (especially low down in the groin region!)

male horns - good size

hunting tips - the calibre
The bush duiker are usually taken at some distance so the use of a shotgun is not practical. In these situations they are shot with the hunters usual hunting rifle.

The forest duikers are almost exclusively hunted with shotguns as they are very quick and the brush is normally heavy.

hunting tips - the trophy
The more common bush duikers are judged by their horn length in comparison to their ears and anything above the ears will usually make the minimum score.

Selecting a Red Duiker male is quite difficult as both sexes have horns and their tuft of hair on their head often obscures these. In addition they are extremely fast and one does not often have a chance to get a good look at the horns

Both males and female Blue Duiker have small horns and they are quite apparent if given time to look.

hunting tips - where
The most commonly hunted duikers are those which are available in the classic safari countries where costs are not prohibitive. We list these below and the countries they are hunted in.

Of the BUSH DUIKERS the most common are:
- Southern Bush Duiker found in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.
- East African Bush Duiker can be hunted in Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Of the FOREST DUIKERS the most  commonly hunted are:
- Natal Red Duiker hunted almost exclusively in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa except for the highlands and now in Mozambique as well.
- Blue Duiker are limited to the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa but also occur across central Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe.
- Yellow Backed Duiker has a wide distribution through western Africa but also extends as far down as north-western and northern Zambia. Recent CITES restrictions have halted hunting of all Yellow Backed Duikers

Most of the other duikers are confined to the tropical rainforest which run across central Africa.

Blue Duiker

Duiker - facts and figures

* Duiker are one of the most common and hardy antelope species found throughout Africa and manifest themselves in various forms, colors and styles across the continent. Typically they are survivors - often being the last to leave an encroached area.

* Despite their size, they can put up a spirited fight when caught or protecting their young.

* Duiker readily come to calls which resemble a bleating calf. Most predator calls do work for the more common duikers.

* Duiker are well adapted to their environment and will survive on almost any kind of food, including fruits, roots, berries and even human excrement around villages and towns.

* Duiker means diver in Dutch possibly referring to the way duikers tend to run in a zigzag diving motion.

No restrictions apply

SCI minimum scores - Rifle
Southern Bush - 11"
East African bush - 11"
Natal Red - 8"
Blue - 4"



My grandfather related an experience that happened to him one night while out hunting for the pot. He had wounded a young male duiker and was busy holding it down trying to cut its throat. Of course, the animal was bleating, attracting another female duiker which charged smack into her mate's attacker, hitting him on the side of the head and stunning him. As if this was not enough, the female continued kicking him with her sharp hooves until her young male had fled.  The next morning it seemed as if my grandfather had gone through 6 rounds with Sonny Liston.