An international team of zoologists led by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford has snapped an image of the Walter’s duiker (Philantomba walteri) in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park in Togo.
The Walter’s duiker (Philantomba walteri). Image credit: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
The Walter’s duiker is a species of small brown antelope found in Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
Discovered only in 2010, this species is less than 40 cm (15.7 inches) tall at the shoulder, and has a mass between 4 and 6 kg.
It has a small head and short, rounded ears, a slightly raised back, short legs, a long tail, and a distinctive stripe above the eye.
Its previous existence was embodied only in skulls and carcasses spotted in bush meat markets in Benin, Togo and Nigeria.
Its conservation status on the IUCN Red List is logged as Data Deficient, with its population trends summarized as unknown.
“This graceful antelope has, for the last 200 years, displayed a great talent for avoiding scientists, but proven tragically less adept at avoiding nets, snares and hunting dogs,” said Professor David Macdonald, director of the WildCRU at the University of Oxford.
Professor Macdonald and colleagues used 100 camera traps to investigate the mammal community in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park, a forest and savannah mosaic landscape in Togo.
Based on images from over 80 locations during 9,007 camera days, they identified 32 mammal species, which, when combined with other published studies, increases the total number of mammals (excluding bats) historically reported to 57 species.
Their results confirm the presence of five mammal species evaluated as threatened according to the IUCN Red List.
The researchers were especially astonished and delighted to capture the first ever image of the Walter’s duiker in the wild.
“This is the way to find needles in a metaphorical haystack. It also instantly shines a global focus on this important national park in Togo,” Professor Macdonald said.
“Along with Walter’s duiker we also found aardvarks and a mongoose called cusimanse, neither of which have previously been recorded in Togo.”
“It is critically important to recognize the importance of the protected area system of Togo, which acts as a vital stronghold for a rich diversity of wild mammals,” added Dr. Gabriel Segniagbeto, a researcher in the Laboratory of Ecology and Ecotoxicology at the University of Lomé and the Togolese Society for Nature Conservation.
“We hope our exciting find — the first live image of the Walter’s duiker in the wild — will increase the call for further protection of our remaining forest and savannah.”
The team’s paper was published in the African Journal of Ecology.
Délagnon Assou et al. Camera trap survey of mammals in the Fazao-Malfakassa National Park, Togo, West Africa. African Journal of Ecology, published online April 1, 2021; doi: 10.1111/aje.12856