Jul 29

A previously unknown population of Africa’s most endangered antelope has been discovered in a highly threatened forest in northern Kenya, according to scientists.

Photo of Aders' duiker in habitat

As well as being Africa’s most Critically Endangered antelope, Aders' duiker is also one of its smallest and most distinctive.

Camera traps in the Boni-Dodori forest on the northern coast of Kenya captured over 3,300 images of Aders’ duiker, a species which had previously only been recorded from the island of Zanzibar and from small forest patches on the Kenyan coast. The new discovery represents the world’s largest known population of this rare antelope.

One of Africa’s smallest duiker species, Aders’ duiker is highly distinctive, with rich chestnut upperparts and a white band across the rump. Its populations have been in serious decline due to habitat loss and illegal hunting, and the remaining individuals are restricted to ever-dwindling forest patches.

Photo of blue duiker sitting on grass

The blue duiker, another tiny antelope living in the Boni-Dodori forest.

Important forest under threat

Set up by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), National Museums of Kenya and WWF, the camera traps also revealed important populations of a number of other species, including African wild dogs, elephants, lions, leopards, and other duikers.

The pictures of Aders’ duiker also come just months after the discovery of a potentially new, giant species of elephant-shrew, or ‘sengi’, in the same area.

However, this important forest is under serious threat from rapid coastal development and the spread of agriculture, and its biodiversity is still poorly understood due to security problems and poor infrastructure, which make access difficult.

Photo of African leopard walking

Leopards, African wild dogs and elephants were also found living in and around the forest.

According to Dr Rajan Amin, a senior conservation biologist for ZSL, “This population [of Aders’ duiker] is a lifeline for the critically endangered antelope, which until now was thought to exist only in tiny populations in coastal Kenya and Zanzibar.”

Given time and conservation action we could unearth even more new species in this isolated forest, but we are running out of time to stop the forest and its hidden secrets from being destroyed by rapid coastal development.”

Calls to protect biodiverse forest

Conservationists are calling for the immediate protection of the Boni-Dodori forest, to preserve its important wildlife populations.

Andrew Bowkett of the WWCT said, “This forest is extremely biodiverse and is a very important area to conserve. We have also found other important populations of forest antelopes in the area including the Harvey’s duiker, suni and the blue duiker which was also not previously known to occur in the Kenyan northern coastal forests.”

Photo of golden-rumped elephant-shrew

A potentially new species of elephant-shrew has been discovered in the Boni-Dodori forest. Like this golden-rumped elephant-shrew, it is likely to be threatened by habitat destruction.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is leading the national effort to conserve the Boni-Dodori forest. Speaking about the new camera trap images, Dr Sam Andanje, Head of Ecosystem and Landscape Conservation at KWS, said, “We will use the new information on Aders’ duiker and other important findings from this research to work closely with key stakeholders to develop effective strategies to conserve and protect these areas.”

Read the full story at ZSL – Pictures captured by scientists reveal hidden wildlife hotspot.

View photos and videos of species from Kenya on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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