Royal Antelope, Neotragus pygmaeus
The royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus) is a species of antelope that can be found in West Africa. Its native range includes Guinea, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. It prefers a habitat in moist forests in lowland areas, as well as other areas with dense vegetation. It can be found in more disturbed forests than primary forests and farming areas, although the threat of hunting does occur in these areas.
The royal antelope is smallest species of antelope, reaching an average height between ten and twelve inches, with a weight of nine to ten pounds. Its fur is light brown on most of the body, with paler fur occurring on the underbelly and dark fur occurring on the sides and head. Males grow small horns that reach an average length of about one inch long. The royal antelope is nocturnal, and typically spends time alone or in pairs. Calves are born so small that they can fit into the average person’s palm.
The major threats of the royal antelope are unknown, but it is thought to be threatened by bushmeat hunting, and possibly habitat loss, although it is able to survive in disturbed forests. In Liberia, this antelope is protected from hunting by a local taboo that considers it to be cunning. Contrary to this, in Côte d’Ivoire, it comprises a large portion of bushmeat. Royal antelope in Sierra Leone are not purposefully hunted often, but they do fall prey to snares meant for other creatures.
It was estimated that the total population of royal antelope numbered 62,000 in 1999, but this is thought to be an underestimate. Even with its large population, it is thought to be decreasing in number due to human encroachment. In protected areas, its population is thought to be stable. Very few of its protected habitats offer safety from poaching, logging, and agricultural intrusions. Conservation efforts will most likely focus on maintaining protected areas like the forested parks in Ghana and Tai National Park located in Côte d’Ivoire. The royal antelope appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”
Image Caption: A Royal Antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus) at the San Diego Zoo. Credit: Mirko Raner/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)