Scientific Name: Cephalophus silvicultor
In Afrikaans, “duiker” means diver, exhibiting the animal’s characteristic habit of diving for cover in the forest or bush. Duikers have the perfect body shape to do so; they are short with arched backs and their forelegs are shorter than their hind legs.
The yellow-backed duiker is the largest of all duikers. It has a heavy-set body, slender legs and distinctive triangular yellow patch on its back. Adults communicate by means of shrill bleats and loud grunts. When alarmed, the yellow-backed duiker whistles a shrill alert and flees quickly into the thick underbrush.
STATUS: Yellow-backed duikers are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: The yellow-backed duiker inhabits forests with heavy undergrowth in western and central Africa.
DIET: Duikers are predominantly browsers, feeding on leaves, berries, fruit, seeds, fungi and grass. On occasion, they may also eat insects, lizards, birds and rodents. They obtain most of their water from the plants they eat.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The yellow-backed duiker is more heavily built than the black or red-flanked duiker, measuring approximately four feet long, standing two and a half feet tall and weighing 100 to 175 pounds. The short, glossy coat of the yellow-backed duiker ranges in color from dark brown to black with a distinctive white to orange wedge of hair on its back. Young duikers are born dark brown with spots on their sides, and the center of their back is jet black until five to nine months of age when the yellow hairs begin to grow. The yellow-backed duiker’s muzzle is light gray, its lips are white and its eyes and ears are small. The scent glands below the eyes are very conspicuous and are used for marking their territory. Both sexes have faintly ridged, wedge-shaped horns which curve down slightly at the tips.
Life as a Yellow-Backed Duiker
Yellow-backed duikers live singly or in pairs. Females reach their sexual maturity at nine to twelve months and males at twelve to eighteen months. The average lifespan of a duiker is ten to twelve years. After a gestation period of seven months, a single calf is born; twins are rare. A newborn duiker lies hidden for over a week before venturing out, and it is weaned by five months of age.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Duikers have the perfect shape for diving for cover in the forest; they are short, with arched backs and have forelegs that are shorter than their hind legs. The red-flanked duiker is small, approximately 30 inches (head and body length), with a height of 14 inches and weight to 24 pounds. Both males and females have horns that are two to three inches long that are often hidden in a tuft of hair that grows between the horns. The horns are short and straight. They are reddish chestnut in color with a dark stripe on the back from the nose to the tail. Their lower legs are darker than the body. The face is short with a rounded or humped bare nose. They have large scent glands beneath the eyes that include a series of pores rather than of a single opening. Their brain relative to size is larger than all of the antelopes. The tail of the duiker has a tassel. They have a hesitant high stepping or bouncing gait with sharp eyes and a good sense of hearing and smell.
Reproduction and Growth
Breeding and births tend to occur year round as young animals have been seen during the wet and dry season. Gestation is about five and one-half months. Duikers are considered precocial but are concealed in vegetation by their mother for several weeks after birth. They are sexually mature when they are about one year old, but probably do not breed until later. Lifespan in captivity can be over 15 years.