Abbott's Duiker
(Cephalophus spadix)

Abbott’s duiker is a large forest antelope endemic to just a handful of mountains in Tanzania. Known as Minde in KiSwahili, it is Africa’s second rarest duiker, and its distribution and abundance has dramatically decreased in the last few years due to hunting and habitat degradation. It is now classified by the IUCN RedList as ‘Endangered’ having recently been upgraded from ‘Vulnerable’. Being a strictly montane forest-dependent species, and one that reaches 60kg in weight, the presence of Abbott’s duiker usually indicates persistence of important, remnant patches of high biodiversity. Despite once being widespread across Tanzania’s mountains, Abbott’s duiker is now only known from Mt Kilimanjaro, the Usambara Mountains, Ilole forest in the Rubeho Mountains, the Udzungwa Mountains and the Southern Highlands. Typical habitat is montane and sub-montane moist forest. In the Southern Highlands it is known from disturbed and secondary montane forest and bamboo forest to 2,500m and plateau grassland to 2,800m. In Mt Kilimanjaro it lives between 1,300 and 2,700m in forests, swamps and moorland. In the Udzungwa Mountains, minde has been found at 300m in lowland, semi-deciduous forest as well as higher in evergreen forests and on the highest peaks.

The total population of Abbott’s duiker is unknown. Comparative data have been used to make estimates of 1 individual per sq km in optimal habitat, and this was used to estimate a total of 1,500-2,500 individuals based on estimated occupancy area. However, this does not account for the dramatic decline of Abbott’s duiker due to hunting over the last decade. Therefore, the real figure is probably less than 1,500 individuals. Abbott’s duiker is active by both day and night. The diet includes fruits, flowers, green shoots and herbage especially balsams. It also raids crops such as sweet potatoes, bananas, beans, cassava and cowpeas. The main non-human predator of Abbott’s duiker is the leopard although young are hunted by African crowned eagles and pythons. In the Udzungwa Mountains, the lion and spotted hyena are also predators.

Due to its recent decline, the official IUCN status of Abbott’s duiker was upgraded in 2008 from Vulnerable to Endangered. There is no doubt that hunting, habitat loss and fragmentation have caused a dramatic reduction in the abundance of most populations and probably their extirpation from many areas.

WCS Work

WCS has been studying and helping to conserve Abbott’s duiker in Tanzania since 2002. In the Southern Highlands there had been no management in any of the forests until very recently and duikers were being hunted to extinction. WCS work in the Southern Highlands therefore includes:

  Comprehensive surveys of duiker hunting

  Assessments of presence, detailed distribution and abundance estimates

  Conservation, awareness raising and education initiatives in communities around Abbott’s duiker habitat

  Setting up of Minde Wildlife Clubs for children

  Protection of forest corridors that allow threatened populations to expand their range.

  Employment of hunters in environmental education in exchange for stopping hunting

In 2009 WCS work to conserve the species was extended to include co-ordinated surveys throughout the species’ range taking the project to the national level. Working with the Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali (MTSN), WCS is implementing the first national (and thus global) assessment of this flagship and much-neglected species, hoping to answer all the key questions regarding the animal’s total distribution and provide for the first time an accurate estimate of the total population.

Photographs © Tim Davenport     © WCS 2010