12 May 2012

The Little Guys

Woody Cape: Home of the Blue Duiker

One of the species I'm very interested in at Woody Cape is the Blue Duiker. The Blue Duiker is the world's smallest antelope. Yes, that makes South Africa, and in particular Addo Elephant National Park, home to both the world's largest antelope (the Eland) and the world's smallest antelope.

Well, technically speaking, there seems to be a lot of competition for the title of "The Smallest Antelope In The World". In my books the Blue Duiker easily shares this title with several other small antelope.

Blue Duiker (Blouduiker - Cephalophus monticola) at the Woody Cape

The Blue Duiker has an interesting slit on each side of its face used for scent marking. Both males and females have short horns, although the horns can sometimes be absent from females.

The main diet of the Blue Duiker consists of freshly fallen leaves, flowers and fruit. However being a true Duiker at heart they also indulge in some carnivorous activities and will supplement their diet with animal material. Sure, a big Common/Grey Duiker can stalk and hunt a mouse/baby bird, but what's available to a hungry little Blue Duiker. Well, apparently they have a sweet tooth for ants, but I'm sure carrion, insects and small vertebrates also form part of their diet.

They are often found near water. I haven't seen any fresh water close to where I've camera trapped these Blue Duiker, so I'm assuming they can manage without free standing water if there is enough moisture in the food and some dew/rain might help as well.

Sneaking past the camera

Blue Duiker are often hunted by humans using snares. Despite this they can still be found in many places living very close to human developed areas. This is somewhat surprising to me since the species does not have a particularly fast breeding cycle (about 7 months gestation) nor do they produce many young (usually only one).

To me the adults look very small and vulnerable. One would expect them to be very high on many predators' snack list. But then again I'm yet to photograph any predator that would be a serious threat to an adult Blue Duiker... Maybe the habitat provides enough cover to keep them safe.

Notice the tiny horns

The first Blue Duiker image (at the top) was photographed with my trusty old Bushnell Trophy Cam 2009 (without the built in viewer). It has been a great workhorse and I've been very happy with it.

The two images above where taken by my newer Bushnell Trophy Cam XLT (with the built in viewer). My first unit kept on over exposing most of the images. It must have had an electrical from the start because the battery life deteriorated steadily. The unit eventually experienced a full on electrical failure, melting parts of the battery compartment in the process. It was still under warranty so I got it replaces and the new unit is much better. I'm happy with its performance thus far.

I also own one of the new Cuddeback Attack (white flash) camera traps. The image below of a Blue Duiker was taken with this camera.

The "blue" in their name comes from the blue sheen of their coats, but I think Orange-Legged Duiker might have worked as well

The Cuddeback Attack is a horrible camera! This might sound a bit harsh, but I love my old Cuddeback Capture and compared to it the new Cuddeback Attack is terrible.

The new Cuddeback Attack is a huge step backwards. The image quality and flash is worse. But the worst of all is the new mounting mechanism. It is absolutely terrible! Anybody who has used an old Cuddeback Capture will know that its mounting mechanism was pretty bad, but Cuddeback somehow succeeded in creating something even worse: the "Genius Mount System". This new moulting system is truly horrible. In fact I've even lost half of the mounting mechanism somewhere between the Woody Cape sand dunes and the park's offices.

So, now if I want to use the camera I have to be a little bit "creative" when I try to mount it...

With the Cuddeback "Genius Mount" lost somewhere in the Woody Cape I patented my own system: the "Truly-Genius Mount". Consisting of a helpful tree and a piece of wire it truly surpasses the previous system!

From the first day the camera didn't impress me. When the recommended firmware update came out I thought "what can I lose" and went ahead with the upgrade.
Um, well...
I followed each step carefully, and according to the output from the camera all went well...
However, I can assure you that everything did not go well.

For example the entire menu is now confused. None of the timer values on the dial (used to set the camera's delay) match with the digital display any more.

But in the end the camera still "works"... So now I use it as is.

In fact this new quirky behaviour even resulted in an unexpected surprise! The camera somehow decided (by itself), halfway through the camera trapping session, to switch itself into video mode. The result of which is a short (and pretty bad) video clip of a Blue Duiker walking past the camera.

Video: A cropped and rotated version of the video taken by the Cuddeback Attack

Camera troubles aside, I think this is a decent start at photographing this intriguing little creature. Now if only I can get one to look at the camera...


  1. When I visited the Dlinza Forest in SA, I was told by the lodge owners that Blue Duikers were common in the forest. The Dlinza Forest is entirely surrounded by the town of Eshowe. The duikers were easy to find, and fairly easy to approach. Beautiful, little guys. To me they looked to be slightly larger than the Sharpe's Grysbok that I saw in Kruger. Sorry to learn about your camera troubles.

  2. I have not heard much good about the new Cuddeback Attack.

    Really astounding to me that Cuddeback can stay somewhat in the running among popular cameras (probably due to history and exposure of their product).

    My old Cuddeback Capture Whiteflash is a trusty cam (and I like the whiteflash pics)...but even that doesn't have the features I need (multi-picture bursts, etc.).

    I was very disappointed to hear that the Attack is as bad as it is. This after their Cuddeback Capture "IR" also turned out to be utter crap.

    Not sure why they can't get it together!

    Cool pics of the duiker! Saw a camera trapped pic of one not too long ago eating a toad on some website. Fascinating critters.

  3. Thanks for the comments :)

    @John: The Blue Duiker is (just over) half the size of a Sharpe's Grysbok. The Common Duiker is slightly bigger than a Sharpe's Grysbok. The Blue Duiker is comparable to (slightly smaller than) a Suni (found in Kruger). I think the Blue Duiker might look bigger because you can sometimes get fairly close to one before it dives for cover.

    @Trailblazer: Wow, I found the photo of the Duiker eating a frog on Google, incredible! (Not a Blue Duiker, per se, but still a Duiker.) The article also stated this: "Ants were found to make up over 10% of the stomach contents (dry weight) of Blue Duiker".