Kirks dikdik

Madoqua kirkii

TAXONOMY

Neotragus kirkii (Günther, 1880), Brava, Somalia. Seven proposed subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Damaraland dikdik; French: Dik-dik de Kirk; German: Kirkdikdik; Spanish: Dik-dik de Kirk.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Small, very slender antelope with distinctive soft, elongated nose. Length 22.5-29.5 in (57-75 cm); height 14-18 in (35-45 cm); weight 6-14 lb (2.7-6.5 kg). Fur on back is grizzled gray with black and white flecks, face and legs are tan, and the chin, belly, and underside of small tail are white to off-white. Crest of fur on head is dark yellow-orange, as are face and legs. Ears large and lined with white fur; large eyes bordered by ring of short white fur. Males with prominent glands beneath the eyes; horns on males sharp, straight, and annulated, growing to 4 in (10 cm).

DISTRIBUTION

Found patchily in two distinct areas separated by more than 1,000 mi (1,600 km); the first in Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia, the second in Angola and Namibia. Largest populations in Namibia.

HABITAT

Restricted to arid regions of dense scrub and mixed woodland habitats. Thickets and thorn scrub are used for cover and food. Also found in riverine woodlands and thickets, along the base of hills and rocky outcroppings. Densities in optimal habitat recorded at up to 282 per mi2 (109 per km2), but more typically 26-104 per mi2 (10-40 per km2) in suitable habitat.

BEHAVIOR

Pairs defend territories cooperatively by chasing same-sex intruders. Territory borders observed to be stable for years in some areas. Territory holders use urine, dung, and secretions from pre-orbital and other glands to mark territory boundaries. Fights common between males along shared borders but seldom involve actual contact between combatants. During fights, males butt vegetation and raise the hair tuft on their heads. Has six known vocalizations, including a shrill double whistle alarm call, and bleats, mews, and screams.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Browses selectively on a broad array of herbs, leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruits; grasses only rarely eaten. Feeds actively at day and night, though generally avoids heat of midday. Often rises onto two legs to reach foods otherwise out of reach. Visits saltlicks and consumes soil and bones to acquire needed minerals. They are renowned for their ability to survive with no access to open water.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Typical breeding unit is a monogamous pair sometimes joined by one or two young on territories of 3-25 acres (1-10 ha). Pair bonds known to last till the death of one member; genetic studies confirm fidelity of females to their mate. Polygynous groups occasionally occur where animal densities are high. Es-trus is thought to last only one to two days. One young is born after a gestation period 166-174 days. Young are precocious and join parents after five or six weeks of hiding in dense vegetation. Birth peaks coincide with the arrival of rainy seasons.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Least Concern. Total population is estimated from hundreds of thousands to one to two million. This animal has declined in some areas as a result of land development for agriculture and hunting but is generally widespread and common. Hunted primarily with nets and snares and occasionally guns and dogs.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The high population densities make it a common item in bush-meat markets. It is a common source of meat for sustenance and commerce throughout its distribution. ♦

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