Small Antelope Research and Conservation
To study, breed and increase awareness of various small antelope species in Zimbabwe
The small antelopes of Africa belong to the subfamilies Neotraginae and Cephalophinae with altogether eight genera and about 30 species. 13 species are found in in Southern Africa, the following eight in Zimbabwe:
- Blue duiker (Cephalophus monticola)
- Natal red duiker (Cephalophus natalensis)
- Grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)
- Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)
- Sharpe's grysbok (Raphicerus sharpei)
- Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)
- Oribi (Ourebia ourebi)
- Suni (Neotragus moschatus)
Five of these species, Natal red duiker, Sharpe's grysbok, klipspringer, oribi and suni, are rated globally threatened according to the IUCN Red List (all LR/cd).
Small antelopes are difficult to study and poorly understood. They comprise a large proportion of the bush meat trade in Africa, which is alimented by poachers using snares, nets, dogs and firearms. Viable populations are under threat also from degradation or loss of habitat and, in places, sport hunting with dogs or birds of prey. The status of many species is unknown and there was a need to investigate the biology and ecology of small antelope in order that appropriate management and sustainable utilisation strategies could be developed and implemented.
A project has been initiated with a view of obtaining behavioural, ecological and biological data for small antelope especially in Zimbabwe using both in situ and ex situ studies and establishing and managing a captive breeding programme to add the international ex situ reservoir.
The project has several components:
In situ research into small antelope community ecology in the Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. Three sympatric species are studied – grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) and steenbok (Raphicerus campestris). Habitat preference and resource utilisation, density estimates and home range size are being investigated, in addition to determining the role these antelope play in structuring vegetation communities.
Ex situ research and Breeding: Seven species of small antelope are maintained at Dambari Field Station in semi-natural enclosures. Minimal human interference ensures that animals behaviours closely mimic those of their wild counterparts and a number of behavioural studies are carried out to complement field research. In addition ex situ breeding is carried out with the aim of maintaining a viable reservoir of antelope.
Capacity building: The project takes undergraduate students from local universities for a period of 10 months during their 3rd year. Students gain practical experience in research by carrying out small research projects and obtain useful skills from research staff at Marwell Zimbabwe Trust.
WAZA Conservation Project 05021 is implemented by Marwell Zimbabwe Trust, supported by Paignton Zoo and Environmental Park and Marwell Zoological Park (UK) in partnership with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Small Antelope Interest Group (Antelope SSG recognition).
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