Duikers are the most common
forest antelopes

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Conservation Status:

Critically Endangered

  • There are 21 species of duiker
  • Only an estimated 640 Ader’s duikers remain
  • Yellow duikers can reach 175 pounds

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Blue duiker (Cephalophus monticla)
Yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor)
Bush duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)


Dependent on subspecies


Dependent on subspecies

Life span

Up to 12 years in captivity


Forest and bush




5 to 7 months


Humans, eagles, lions, and leopards


Where do duikers live?

The little blue duiker and yellow­­-backed duiker species live in montane, riverine, and rain forests. The bush duiker lives mostly in moist savannas and avoids rain forests.


Tags: DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, East Africa, West/Central Africa, Virunga, Cameroon, Duiker View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a duiker?

Duikers are small antelopes that inhabit the forest or dense bushland. They are divided into two groups: forest duikers and bush duikers. The bush duiker has larger ears and is more slender, longer-legged, less hunch-backed, and lighter in color than the species that inhabits the dense, dark forests.

The bush duiker is represented by only one species known as the common or Grimm's duiker. This is the most widely distributed duiker in East Africa and is found in a large range of habitats but never in the deep forest.

Unlike the forest species, the bush duiker has long legs and is able to run fast for longer distances. All duikers freeze and crouch to escape detection. They have dark, glossy coats and tails that have white hair that contrasts with the dark body. 

Male and female forest duikers are about the same size, and both have horns. Duiker horns are small and spike-like, lying flat against the head. Bush duiker females are larger than males, but they usually do not have horns.

The smallest of the duikers is the blue duiker, which is found in Uganda, Western Kenya, and parts of Tanzania. The largest is the yellow-backed duiker, which ranges across the whole of the African tropical forest block. Populations of the yellow­-backed duiker are also found on Mt. Elgon and on the Mau in Kenya. This duiker can be 35 inches tall and weigh 175 pounds. It has distinctive, long whitish-yellow to orange hair that stands erect on the back.

The duikers in the genus Cephalophus all have the same distinctive body type, although the different species vary in size. Duikers have low-slung bodies on slender legs, wedge-shaped heads topped by a crest of long hair, and relatively large eyes. With their heads held close to the ground, duikers can move easily through the dense vegetation of forests and bushlands. When disturbed, they plunge into the thick cover to hide. This trait is the source of the name "duiker," which in Dutch means "diver."

Behavior & Diet

Duikers enjoy a varied diet.

Their large mouth permits them to feed on sizable fruits, mushrooms, and other bulky items. Duikers also eat berries and fruits that have fallen naturally as well as those dropped by monkeys, but most of their diet consists of foliage from bushes and trees. On occasion, duikers may eat insects, lizards, birds, and rodents.

They are extremely well-groomed.

Duiker pairs devote a great deal of time to grooming one another's heads, which apparently aids in bonding pairs; it may also help individuals recognize their own species and discourage interbreeding with others.

Males fight for their property rights.

Male duikers fight, especially when their territory is invaded. Duikers inhabit fairly small territories marked with the secretions from the preorbital gland below each eye. Even though a pair will live together in the territory, they will spend most of the time apart.

They play hard to get.

Duiker courtship involves prolonged and noisy chases about the territory before mating, after which a single young is born. A calf can run within hours of birth but usually lies hidden for long periods of time between suckling. It grows rapidly and is adult-sized at 6 to 7 months. The young utter a loud bleat when in danger, quickly signaling adults in the area.


  • Duiker Arno Mentjies
  • Duiker Stefan de Greling
  • Duiker Arno Mentjies
  • Duiker Stefan de Greling

Humans are encroaching on their habitats.

With the growth of human populations and resulting expansion of roads, settlements, and agriculture, wildlife habitats are fragmented or lost. Duikers are losing their habitats and being pushed into closer quarters with humans.

Duikers are hunted by humans.

The animals are hunted for their meat, skins, and horns, which are popular in some areas as charms against evil spirits. Bush duikers may be hunted in reprisal for raiding crops.



Our solutions to protecting the duiker:

  • Develop conservation tourism.

    African Wildlife Foundation brings together communities and private investors to construct conservation tourism lodges like the Koija Starbeds Lodge in Kenya. The lodge provides sustainable income for the community, and the 500-acre conservancy is a safe home to a variety of wildlife.

  • Set aside protected spaces.

    AWF works with governments and villages to designate wildlife corridors—large swaths of land that duikers, and other wildlife, use to roam freely and safely from one park, or country, to another. Corridors link protected areas and allow the duiker to follow rains or travel to their calving grounds.

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