The Common, or Grey, Duiker is the largest and most widespread of the three duiker species occurring in South Africa. These small antelope stand between 45cm and 70cm high at the shoulder, and only the rams carry short horns, though on average the ewes, at between 16 and 25kg in weight, are about 2kg heavier.
Common duikers occur in all of South Africa’s natural habitats, and can even hold their own in intensively farmed area, and in and near towns and city suburbs. They are independent of water, and drink seldomly even where surface water is readily available. These duikers are mixed feeders, subsisting on leaves predominantly but also taking grass, bark, seeds, fruits, flowers, twigs, pods, fungus, roots and tubers. Unusually for antelope, they have been seen eating insects, small vertebrates like chicks and geckos, and carrion.
Grey duikers are mostly solitary, occurring in pairs when mating or when a ewe is accompanied by her lamb. Both sexes are territorial and mark their areas with dung-middens and secretions from facial scent glands, ram’s territories usually being larger and overlapping those of one or more ewes. These antelope are mostly nocturnal, active from dusk to dawn and sometimes all day under overcast conditions. By day, they seek cover in long grass or dense thickets. When threatened, they will first attempt to hide before fleeing with sidestepping moves along well defined pathways – thus giving rise to their name (“duiker” being Afrikaans for “diver”).
Single lambs, weighing less than 2kg, are born at any time of year (mostly in the rainy season) after a gestation of 190 days. Newborn lambs are hidden in dense vegetation. All Africa’s larger predators, from lions to owls, eagles and even baboons, will prey on common duikers, explaining why their life expectancy in the wild is only 8 to 12 years. Shine, a well-known and much loved resident at Kruger National Park’s Shimuwini Bushveld Camp lived to the ripe old age of 22 before falling prey to a leopard.
The common duiker is one of Africa’s most numerous antelope, and it is estimated that as many as 10-million occur across the continent. Some populations however are under considerable pressure from subsistence and commercial hunting. They are regularly seen in most of South Africa’s wild places and are a frequent nighttime sighting along country roads.