Africa has some fourteen to eighteen species of duikers, which are very small antelopes. The word duiker is of Dutch origin and it means to “scoot under,” which is quite appropriate because duikers scoot under bushes and thick vegetation to get away from potential threats. Duikers come in many varieties, with the largest of them (the Jentinks and yellow-backed duikers) weighing as much as 150 pounds, and smallest (the blue duiker) about eight pounds. They occur from Senegal to South Africa wherever suitable habitat is found, which is mostly thick vegetation. Duikers typically reproduce at a quick rate and seem to survive even prolonged subsistence hunting pressures. When given some protection and exposed to controlled sport hunting programs, they thrive.
Some duikers are easy to hunt, like the blue duiker, which is found in many trophy collections. Others, such as the Abbot duiker, are very difficult or nearly impossible. Of all the duikers, the most prized is the zebra or banded duiker, which has a beautiful fawn/tan colored hide with eight to ten vertical stripes that are found on the rear half of the animal. They are only found in Liberia and possibly two adjacent countries. Since World War II they were hunted for a brief period during the 1960s by such African pioneers as James Mellon. They were again hunted, intermittently, in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, very recently, Liberia was once again opened to hunting, so zebra duikers are being hunted once more. The problem with zebra duikers is that they are not only hard to find and, even within Liberia, very localized, but they also live in one of the world’s hotspots for civic strife. It seems if there is not a revolution then there is a war with a neighboring country, and, as that clears up, Ebola strikes.
The zebra duiker shown here was shot in 1999 when the country was open for two seasons. This is a monster, with its longest horn measuring–are you sitting down?—a whole 3 1/8 inches. This is bigger by nearly one inch from the next largest zebra duiker on record.
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