Although we have no active small antelope projects running at present, previous in situ research in the eastern section of Matobo National Park included: monitoring of the antelope populations, investigating home range size of common duikers (Sylvicapra grimmia], and determining habitat use by common duiker, steenbok and klipspringer. Ex situ studies were also conducted on a collection of small antelope housed at Dambari Field Station. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, this collection has been closed and the animals have been rehomed at other facilities in Zimbabwe or released into safe natural habitats. Outputs from some of the research conducted can be viewed on the publications page, and more articles are in preparation.
The duikers and mini-antelope (Cephalophinae and Neotragini) were the focus of DWT’s antelope project. These groups are extremely diverse and entirely African, totalling more than 35 species on the continent. The majority of duikers are forest dwellers and found in Central and West-African regions, but three species occur south of the Zambezi River. Mini-antelope (e.g. klipspringer [Oreotragus oreotragus], dik-diks [Madoqua spp.] and steenbok [Raphicerus campestris]) are widespread across a range of habitats from forest to semi-desert.
Until fairly recently, small antelope were largely overlooked in many habitats because they typically constitute a small proportion of the biomass and are usually secretive and difficult to study in the wild. However, because of their selective feeding habits, relative longevity and sedentary nature, they are involved in important ecosystem services, including nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Nicky Pegg’s PhD work on small antelope in the Matobo ecosystem demonstrated the important role that these animals play in limiting bush encroachment and promoting woody plant diversity. Small antelope are also important prey species for large mammalian predators and some raptors, and are often significant components of bushmeat markets throughout Africa.