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What is a Dik-Dik?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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A dik-dik is a small African antelope in the genus Madoqua. Dik-diks rarely grow above 16 inches (40 centimeters) at the shoulder, making them the dwarfs of the antelope family. These animals can be found in many regions of the African savanna, and some zoos also maintain dik-diks, for people who want to visit these animals without having to travel so far afield. The name of this animal is imitative in origin, referencing the alarm call made by the dik-dik when it senses danger.

Dik-diks are gray to brown on the upper parts of their bodies, with creamy bellies. The males have short ridged horns, which are hidden by a tuft of hair in some species, such as the Kirk's Dik-Dik. These animals also have very unusually-shaped snouts, which are elongated and pointy. The unusual facial shape of the dik-dik facilitates cooling of the blood in hot weather by promoting evaporation from the mucus membranes, and allows the animals to fit their heads between the dangerous spines of acacia shrubs to snack on the leaves.

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Like other antelope, the dik-dik is an herbivore, feeding on trees, shrubs, and grasses. These animals prefer open space with short grass, and will move to a new location if the grass becomes too tall for them to see clearly. Some dik-diks also inhabit woodlands, as long as the ground is free of obstructions so that they can see clearly. For shelter, dik-diks hide in shrubs and sometimes tunnels, often in dry stream beds. The dik-dik also happens to be water-independent, ingesting all of the water it needs from its diet.

These antelope typically live in pairs, choosing a specific territory and marking it with scent glands near their eyes. Gestation for dik-diks takes around six months, with a single fawn being typical. The males and females raise the young cooperatively, with dik-diks becoming sexually mature around around six months of age, at which point they are encouraged to seek new territory.

A number of animals predate on dik-diks, including monitor lizards, African wild cats, and hyenas. These animals can sometimes be seen on safari, especially in areas where they are abundant, although they can be very shy. In addition to the Kirk's Dik-Dik mentioned above, it is also possible to see the Gunther's Dik-Dik, Silver Dik-Dik, and Salt Dik-Dik, depending on where in Africa one happens to be.

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