Suni

Nesotragus moschatus

One of the smallest antelope occurring in South Africa, the Suni weighs only around 5kg and stands a measly 35cm tall at the shoulder. Only the ram carries the short horns, while the ewes are slightly more heavily built.

Sunis are very particular about their habitat, preferring dense, dry thickets in deciduous woodland and riverine forests, often on sandy soils. They are browsers, feeding selectively on nutrient-rich leaves, fruit, shoots, mushrooms and herbs.

Usually encountered singly and more infrequently in pairs or small groups, Sunis are most active from dusk to dawn and have favoured spots where they rest during the heat of the day. Rams mark their territories with their prominent pre-orbital scent glands and dung middens, and both sexes are inclined to use well-trodden paths through their home range, making them especially prone to predation and poaching.

Suni ewes give birth to single lambs, usually during the rainy season. The lambs are hidden for the first few weeks of life, with the ewe returning to them regularly through the day to nurse. The lambs are weaned when they’re 2-3 months old and sexually mature by the time they’re a year old. Their natural lifespan is estimated at 9 years maximum and usually much shorter.

While overall the IUCN lists the Suni as being of “least concern” with an estimated population of 365,000 individuals distributed along Africa’s eastern coast and adjacent interior from Kenya to South Africa, these diminutive antelope are considered to be endangered in South Africa, where they are found only in northern Kwazulu-Natal and the Pafuri and Punda Maria areas of the Kruger National Park (their numbers in Kruger were supplemented by several introductions from KZN, but confirmed sightings remain few and far between). The total population in Kwazulu-Natal is estimated at around 1,500, with the biggest single populations being the estimated 750 protected in the Tembe Elephant Park and around 360 in the uMkhuze Game Reserve. Poaching and loss of habitat are considered the major reasons for their decline in South Africa. Interestingly, burgeoning populations of elephant, nyala and large predators in conservation areas have a severely negative effect on the Suni, as they suffer heavily from predation and the larger herbivores denude the lower shrub layer so crucial to the Suni’s survival. Thankfully Sunis breed well in captivity and this offers hope for their reintroduction into areas from which they’ve disappeared locally.

37 thoughts on “Suni

  1. naturebackin

    Your photos are wonderful. We have only seen suni partially concealed in sand forests at Mkhuze. Thanks for the detailed information about their numbers and about the threats to their survival. It is good at least that they breed successfully in captivity.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Jy was baie gelukkig om hulle dan omtrent op jou voorstoep te kon sien, Aletta. Vandag lyk dit my is daar nie meer soenies by Dlinza nie, net nog n paar blouduikertjies.

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          1. Aletta - nowathome

            Ja, dit gaan sommer al baie beter. Die dads army het oor geneem en staan wag. Niemand kan sommer net in die dorp inkom nie. Hulle bewaak al die ingange. Wit en bruin en swart saan saam! Besig met opruiming. Kos kom darem in😊

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  2. H.J. for avian101

    These Suni antelopes are cute little creatures, I just hope that never get to be endangered species. Great post, D. Nice shots Joubert! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  3. sustainabilitea

    Oh, my, they’re adorable! Apropos of nothing here, are you a rugby fan? The Springboks fell apart in the second half to end up losing to the England and Irish team. My husband played rugby for a number of years so if we can watch, we do. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see the 7’s at the Olympics because we don’t have “regular” TV.

    janet

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Sad as it is, we have to admit that the Lions played the better game on Saturday and deserved the win over the ‘Boks. Will we be seeing you in the stadium for the game this Saturday again, Janet?

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