The duiker gets its name from the Afrikaans word ‘to dive’ which relates to the animals habit of ducking and diving into bushes when it is in danger. There are 21 species of duiker and they are the most common forest antelopes, which are split into 2 groups: bush duiker and forest duiker.
The bush duiker has larger ears and is more slender, has longer legs and is lighter in colour than the forest duiker. The males have small horns and stand up to 50cm at the shoulders while the females are about 20mm taller. The females can weigh up to 21kg whereas the males reach about 18kg. Their underparts are white and they have a black band around their face near the nostrils.
The bush duiker is represented by only one species, which is the common, or Grimm’s duiker. They are mainly active in the late afternoon and into the night. They are very territorial, chasing away other members of the same sex. Male duikers often fight, especially when their territory is invaded. They live in fairly small territories, which they mark with secretions from the pre-orbital gland below each eye.
Males and females do share territories but only come together to mate. They spend a great amount of time grooming each others heads, which helps with pair bonding and also helps individuals identify their own species – which discourages inter species breading. Duiker courtship involves prolonged and noisy chases in the territory before mating, after which a single calf is born. A calf can run within hours of being born, although it tends to spend most of the time lying hidden within foliage. They grow quickly, reaching adult size within 6 months.
Duikers feed on leaves, fruits and seeds. Their large mouths allow them to feed on sizeable fruits, mushrooms and other bulky items. They are the only antelope that is known to eat insects.
The duiker avoids predators by lying quietly and motionless and then dashing away at the last moment. It runs and dives in a zigzag motion and uses its horns and sharp black hooves as defence. To alarm others to danger they issue a nasal snort and, if caught, bleat loudly, attracting others to help. They are preyed upon by all medium to large predators, but mainly eagles, leopards, jackals, pythons and humans.