The Yellow-backed Duiker calf at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is simply a “wondrous-marvel”, and that is just what her name, Shani, means in Swahili.
Shani was born August 22 and has been spending quality time bonding with her parents. The small family unit is a preference for the duiker.
Although her species name suggests otherwise, Shani’s characteristic yellow stripe won’t appear on her back until she is about six-months-old. For now, her coloring is suitable for hiding in the shelter of forest floors and brush.
The Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) is a forest dwelling antelope in the order Artiodactyla, from the family Bovidae. They are the most widely distributed of all the duikers, and they are found mainly in Central and Western Africa, ranging from Senegal to Western Uganda with a possible few in Gambia. Their range also extends southward into Ruanda, Burunidi, Zaire, and most of Zambia.
Yellow-backed Duikers have a convex body shape, standing taller at the rump than the shoulders. They have very short horns, which are cylindrical and are ribbed at the base. Yellow-backed Duikers get their name from the characteristic patch of yellow hairs on their rump, which stand when the animal becomes alarmed or feels threatened. They weigh-in at about 60–80 kg, making it the largest of its genus. It has a large mouth, throat and jaw musculature.
Yellow-backed Duikers are mainly forest dwelling and live in semi-deciduous forests, rainforests, riparian forests, and montane forests. However, they can also be found in open bush, isolated forest islands, and clearings on the savanna. Their convex body shape is well suited for forest living. Also known as “little divers,” duikers dive into thick undergrowth to hide from predators; hence, the name duiker which means "diver" in Afrikaans.
Yellow-backed Duikers have been found to be both diurnal and nocturnal. They live solitarily or in couples. Small herds are rarely found. Overall, they are hard to study in the wild due to their elusive habits and the difficult terrain in which they live.
They feed selectively on plants or plant parts, such as: shoots, roots, leaves, and buds, but their diet is mainly made up of fruits.
Duikers are the most heavily hunted species across forested West and Central Africa. It is not only a vital food source for African people, but the duiker can be a vital source of income as well. This puts the Yellow-backed Duiker and its relatives at major risk for overhunting. Some experts project that by the year 2020 they may be at serious risk for further endangerment.
The IUCN currently classifies the species as “Near Threatened”, but if current trends continue, the Yellow-backed Duiker's distribution will become increasingly fragmented. It is thought that the Yellow-backed Duiker may already be locally extinct in the Oban Sector of the Cross River National Park, in the Oban Hills Region, of Nigeria.