Dik-Dik

The unusual name of these small, shy antelopes stems from the dik-dik sound of their alarm call, uttered when disturbed out in the open.

Kirk’s dik-dik is a dwarf antelope. It lives in dry brushlands, where there are thick bushes to provide food and cover, seldom venturing out into open country. The species ranges across eastern Africa from southern Somalia to central Tanzania. From there its distribution extends into south-western Africa as far down as northern Namibia. For much of the year, the only moisture dik-diks get is the dew droplets on their plant food. These small antelopes face many predators — not just mammals but also reptiles such as pythons, and eagles which prey particularly on unsuspecting young.

Dik-diks form breeding pairs that stay together for life. A male defends a large territory, which he shares with a single female. The pair produce young every six months or so. Most calves are born between November and December and then again between April and May. Breeding pairs mark their territory using their faeces. This is done in a ritualized manner, in which the male mixes his droppings and urine into his mate’s so that their individual scents form a single odour for the pair. A female dik-dik will initially hide her newborn offspring to protect it from predators. Only once the youngster is at least two weeks old will it be strong enough to join its parents, and sprint if required.

The most distinguishing feature of these little antelopes is the long, almost pointed, snout. This elongated snout is a mechanism for keeping cool, in that heat is lost through evaporation from the large, damp nasal membrane.

These antelopes are shy, nocturnal creatures. They are easily spooked and will escape from danger by running in a confusing zigzag path, making a series of leaps as they do so. As it runs the antelope produces a “dik-dik” call, hence its common name.

Distribution: Mainly in East Africa, from Somalia south through Kenya and Malawi. There is also a totally separate western population occurring in Angola and Namibia.

Habitat: Dry areas of brushland.

Weight: 2.7 - 6.5 kg (5.9 - 14.3 lb).

Length: 59 - 83 cm (23 - 32.5 in), including the tail.

Maturity: Females from 6 - 8 months and males between 8 - 9 months.

Gestation period: From 155 - 186 days, with births occurring in two main periods annually.

Breeding: Single calves born twice a year.

Food: Herbivorous, eating grasses, leaves and flowers. Actively seeks out salt, although less inclined to drink, obtaining moisture from its food.

Lifespan: About 10 years.

Status: Common.

Glands

Dik-diks use secretions from special glands near the eyes as a way of marking their territory.

Legs

Narrow, athletic legs help these antelopes to be nimble on their feet.

Horns

Only the male has horns, which measure just 11.4 cm (4.5 in) in length, with a forelock of longer hair between them.

STAYING TOGETHER

Dik-diks pair for life, occupying the same territory and marking the boundaries with dung. The male drives off would-be intruders.

Salt's dik-dik

Madoqua saltiana

Size: 52 - 67 cm (20.5 - 26.25 in); 4.25 kg (9.25 lb).

This dik-dik species lives in the dry mountains and stony semi-deserts of the Horn of Africa. They are the smallest of all dik-dik species.

Like other dik-diks, this species forms lifelong breeding pairs. Each pair produces young twice a year, generally a single calf each time. As their name suggests, this species is also known for its "dik-dik" alarm call. At times of stress, the hairs on its forehead become erect.

Gallery of Dik-Dik