The pygmy antelope is a bovid-hoofed mammal. This species of animals belongs to the genus of the same name of dwarf antelopes. The international scientific name for the smallest antelope, the smallest ruminant and the smallest ungulate in the world, given by Carl Linnaeus, — Neotragus pygmaeus.
Species origin and description
The first word from the binomial name Neotragus consists of two parts, which can be translated as “new goat”, the specific name also indicates the insignificant size of the mammal and is translated as “little fist”. This artiodactyl has other names, local tribes gave it the name of the royal antelope. This was first reported by the merchant Bosman, who participated in the West India Company, (in Old English the words deer and king are homonyms). Also, the so-called Antilope regia also has the name — Capra pygmaea, in German the baby is called Kleinstböckchen.
Video: Pygmy Antelope
The German zoologist Simon Pallas described two species of pygmy antelope Tragulus pygmaeus and Antilope pygmaea, but upon closer examination and genetic analysis, it turned out that both of them belong to N. pygmaeus. The subfamily of baby antelopes is divided into eight genera and fourteen species, but this division is very arbitrary, since the appearance and lifestyle of some of them are very similar.
The genus of pygmy antelopes has several species with a common origin, these are:
- dorcatragus (beira);
- ourebia (oribi);
- madoqua (dikdik);
- oreotragus (klipspringer);
All these animals are characterized by a small stature, a secretive lifestyle, they are found in different regions of Africa. Also, the common ancestors of the pygmy antelope were not only with klipspringers and duikers, but also with representatives of the subfamily Cephalophinae.
This artiodactyl has less family ties with other babies, such as sunyas (N. moschatus) and Bates antelopes (N. batesi), which live in other regions of the African continent. They look like their Asian counterparts — mouse deer traguls. The dwarf antelope has a longer muzzle than the Batesian antelope, and wider lips, although the mouth is smaller, they are adapted for eating foliage.
Appearance and features
This surprisingly small bovid artiodactyl at the withers has a height of only a quarter of a meter, together with its head it is not more than half a meter. The weight of a dwarf antelope is not more than three kilograms, more often about 2 & # 8212; 2.5. The legs of the animal are slender, thin, graceful. Only the heads of males are decorated with black cone-shaped, smooth horns, their length is 2–2.5 cm. They are slightly curved back. There are roller-like thickenings at the base of the horns.
Interesting fact: The forelegs of the royal antelope are half as long as the hind legs, so the outlines of the silhouette give the impression that they are constantly inclined to the ground, which is why the animal can be compared with a hare, both in body shape and size.
The coat is soft, brown with a reddish or golden sheen. In the center of the head and back, the shade of the coat is slightly darker than the main one. Starting from the chin, down the throat and abdomen, along the inside of the legs, there is a white color, but in the middle of the chest it is separated by a brown “collar”, forming a white “shirt-front” on the throat. Also white has a tuft of hair at the end of the tail. The tail is thin, its length is up to eight centimeters.
An interesting fact: In the pygmy antelope, the females are larger than the males, and their cubs can easily fit in the palm of a person.
The eyes of the baby antelope are round, large, dark brown. The ears are translucent and small. The nasal rhinarium is wide, hairless, greyish-pink.
Where does the pygmy antelope live?
The smallest in In the animal kingdom, the artiodactyl lives in the humid West African rainforests in:
- Sierra Leone;
- Ivory Coast
The animal loves places with dense thickets of shrubs and herbaceous plants. The habitat extends from the mountain slopes of Koununkan in the southwestern part of Guinea. Further, the territory captures Sierra Leone, Liberia, through Ivory Coast, reaching the banks of the Volta in Ghana. Royal antelopes are found in more northern regions. There they are found on the border of the forest zone and savannas. These are places where there is suitable vegetation for small secretive animals to hide and feed. But still, these antelopes prefer moist and warm wooded flat places, these can also be secondary forests.
These defenseless babies require dense vegetation in order to easily hide from enemies. They can inhabit bushy farmlands despite the danger of being caught or shot by hunters.
Interesting fact: Some subspecies of pygmy antelopes, such as livretto — N. hemprichii, live in Abyssinia. There the climate is not so humid and the babies prefer to live on the slopes of ravines, where water collects after the rains, and dense thickets of euphorbia, thorn bushes and mimosas provide both shelter and food.
Now you know where the pygmy antelope lives. Let's see what it eats.
What does the pygmy antelope eat?
This mammal, like other artiodactyls, is a herbivore. It prefers fresh grass, foliage and shoots of shrubs, flowers. The miniature antelope will also include various juicy tropical fruits in its diet: fruits and berries, as well as mushrooms.
Due to the abundance of moisture in the tropical forests of southern West Africa, all plants contain a lot of juice, eating them, the royal antelope no longer feels thirsty, and therefore does not need water sources and does not look for watering places.
The cheek muscles of the pygmy antelope are not as strongly developed as in other, even the most closely related subspecies, for example, the Bates antelope, although this little one is only not much larger. This structural feature, as well as a small mouth, does not allow artiodactyl babies to eat lignified shoots. But nature took care of these animals, rewarding them with a longer and narrower muzzle, wide lips with which you can capture young foliage in dense thickets.
In search of better places with new food sources, these bovids can move to new territories, but since in the tropics the growth processes of plants proceed very quickly, then the babies do not have to travel long distances, only small movements in the same territory are enough.
Features character and lifestyle
Neotragus pygmaeus is extremely secretive. This is justified, since the animal has a small stature, it cannot move quickly, compared to larger mammals, it also does not have other means of protection: powerful horns or hooves. But these babies have learned to hide perfectly in the dense undergrowth of the tropics among grass and bushes.
The territory inhabited by dwarf antelopes, considering it their own, does not exceed one hundred square meters. The size of the occupied area can be judged by the heaps of manure. They move along it in search of food, most often at dusk or in the wee hours. The animal rests during the day, hiding in the undergrowth.
An interesting fact: Unlike most scientists, zoologist Jonathan Kingdon claims that antelopes feed both during the day and during the darker hours.
The life and character traits of dwarf antelopes are very poorly studied, they are very shy. At the slightest threat, they crouch in the thick grass, freeze to go unnoticed. If the enemy gets too close, these little ones jump up and rush headlong away through the thickets.
Dwarf artiodactyls run with a low body, and for high jumps they use strong muscular hind legs. Having met an obstacle on the way, they overcome it with high jumps, and in order to confuse the pursuers, they make zigzag throws to the sides while running. , the dwarf antelope has good jumping ability. The height of the jumps reaches more than half a meter above ground level, while the length of the animal covers a distance of almost three meters.
Social structure and reproduction
Baby antelopes are monogamous, but there are also cases of polygamy. To mark territory, pygmy bovids have preorbital glands. They are not very developed, but animals mark their habitats with their aroma, rubbing against the trunks of plants, and also marking the territory with feces. Animals do not gather in herds, rarely live in pairs, although females prefer an independent lifestyle.
Since the animal is very shy and leads a secretive lifestyle, the rutting period and gestation period are not known to zoologists, but it is assumed that gestation lasts about six months. The offspring of these mammals appears once a year. Females are released from the burden in late autumn-early African winter. Here, in the southwest of equatorial Africa, the change of seasons is almost not noticeable, and can only be marked by a calendar, these are the months of November-December.
A litter always consists of one individual. The weight of newborn babies is about 300-400 grams, they are very fragile, less often, babies weighing 500-800 grams are born in older and larger females. The delicate fur of babies is identical to the color of adults. For about two months, newborns feed on mother's milk, gradually switching to pasture.
After six months from the date of birth, the antelope reaches puberty. Dwarf antelope can be seen grazing in small family groups, along with young, growing children who have not yet mated. On average, life expectancy in the wild is estimated at 5-6 years, in captivity animals live 2-3 years longer.
Natural enemies of pygmy antelopes
For such babies, any predator can be dangerous. These can be large representatives of the cat family: a leopard or a panther, which can easily catch up with these animals or watch them hiding in dense vegetation.
Jackals, hyenas also attack pygmy antelopes, especially in areas bordering savannahs . Even large primates, which eat not only plant food, but can hunt small mammals, are able to catch these artiodactyls.
Birds of prey are also enemies of royal antelopes, but they do not pose a serious threat. It is difficult for them to hunt mobile and cautious bovids in dense undergrowth, in thickets of grass and bushes. Great danger can be expected from large poisonous snakes and pythons, which can easily swallow their small prey whole.
The main threat to this species of ungulates in some regions of its habitat is man, since they are the object of hunting. Often mammals fall into traps set on other animals.
An interesting fact: Up to 1,200 carcasses of these defenseless antelopes are sold annually in Kumasi markets in Ghana.
In Sierra Leone, pygmy artiodactyls are not specifically hunted, but they fall into snares for duikers, although there are cases when they are shot from a gun. In Côte d'Ivoire, these small mammals make up a large part of the wild meat harvested.
Interesting fact: But not everywhere pygmy antelopes become the prey of hunters. In Liberia, among the inhabitants of some tribes, this animal is considered the embodiment of evil forces and its hunting is taboo.
Population and species status
The pygmy antelope is endemic to Upper Guinea and is found in the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone. In Ghana, east of the Volta River, this animal is not found or is very rare. In total, the population by 2000 numbered up to 62,000 individuals, but this is not accurate data, since a secretive lifestyle does not allow a more accurate assessment of the situation with the livestock. The data was obtained by recalculating the area of habitat and the extrapolated density of 0.2-2.0 per square kilometer.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the safety of this species does not cause concern. But small mammals are hunted in some regions of their range, which can pose a threat to population conservation. Also, the narrowing of areas suitable for the life of this animal, the expansion of agricultural land, the construction of cities negatively affects the population.
Experts believe that this species is gradually declining. Because human activity and the associated pressures on natural habitats and wildlife continue to grow across much of the range of the smallest of the ungulates. But so far, there is no evidence that the rate of decline is generally close to reaching the Threatened status threshold.
Reserves and protected areas allow the maintenance and increase of the number of pygmy antelopes in these areas:
- in Guinea — these are Dike Reserve and Ziama Reserve;
- in Ghana — Assin-Attandazo and Kakum National Parks;
- in Sierra Leone – Gola Rainforest Reserve.
in Côte d’Ivoire, Tai National Park, Mabi Yaya Reserve Forest;
The pygmy antelope, although it is represented in the fauna of Africa in fairly large numbers , but still requires a caring attitude towards oneself on the part of a person. To do this, it is necessary to effectively protect these ungulates from poachers, and forests from deforestation. The survival of this animal is now more dependent on the fact that favorable conditions are created for it in the national parks of Ghana and Ivory Coast.