One of the Oregon Zoo's newest and smallest four-legged babies recently made his debut. A 2-month-old red-flanked duiker is now on exhibit with his mother in the zoo's Africa Rain Forest area. Duikers are among the smallest of antelope species and generally weigh only 20 to 26 pounds when fully grown.
Photo credits: Carli Davidson / Oregon Zoo
Zoo visitors may have difficulty spotting the new addition during his first several weeks on exhibit because mother duikers often hide their calves in brush piles, retrieving them only when it's time to nurse. This is the mother's way of protecting the baby from predators. The calf, yet unnamed, is a second-generation Oregon Zoo duiker. His mother, Kandungo, was also born at the zoo.
"With any luck, visitors should be able to see the little guy regularly within a couple of weeks," said Gwen Gerdsen, senior keeper. "Duikers are fascinating creatures. They look like something from a fairy tale."
The red-flanked duiker is not endangered, but it is conservation-dependent; while the population is large enough to be considered sustainable, it is still a threatened species. The Jentink, Aders and zebra duikers are currently endangered, and numbers are dropping dramatically for all duiker species due to the bushmeat trade crisis in Africa.
"People are continuously hunting these animals for meat to feed their families," noted Chris Pfefferkorn, Oregon Zoo general curator. "It's important to address these issues before the problem is too severe and the animals become endangered."
Pfefferkorn oversees the red-flanked duiker population management plan, designed to ensure longevity and maintenance of zoo populations. He also develops the zoo's conservation links to programs in Africa.
The calf will stay with his parents for six months to a year before venturing out on his own. Red-flanked duikers become sexually mature after about a year, so the calf will need to be removed from its parents before that time to avoid inbreeding. Where the animal goes next depends on the population management plan and the needs of the population at the time it's ready to move.
Duikers are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa in wetlands, rainforests and timber-heavy regions. Although they browse on grass, leaves, shrubs and trees, duikers are classified as frugivores because the main component of their diet is fruit. They have also been observed eating carrion and insects, which isn't common among most antelope but provides protein to their diet.
At the zoo, duikers are fed a variety of vegetables and milled grains with necessary vitamins and minerals. They are also provided browse, as well as insects like mealworms and crickets for a source of protein.