New Trip Report: Abbott’s Duiker in Tanzania

13 Comments
  1. Ralf Bürglin 7 months ago

    Very cool! But as I read your report, it seems that it is just one individual. Or could there be more? – which would certainly boost the chances of seeing one. The Abbott’s Duiker is said to be nocturnal. Maybe looking at night is also a possibility to enhance your chances of seeing one. And what does attract the animal/s to the open area anyway? Forage?

  2. Antee 7 months ago

    Nice find!

  3. Charles Foley 7 months ago

    Hi Ralf,

    Yes I think the animal that I saw and which Shaban had photographed previously is the same individual. This one comes to feed on the shrubs that grow in the open area around the ranger post. The rangers get moved around quite frequently, so I could not figure out how long that particular individual had been coming, but one of the rangers said he’d seen an Abbott’s in the area about 5 years ago. I know of at least two other people who have seen Abbott’s along the trail up to the hut, with one sighting taking place about 10 years ago, so there are certainly others around. The thing is there are few open areas along the trail where one is likely to be able to see a duiker (they would be hard to find in the thick vegetation which borders most of the trail), although you would certainly increase your chances of seeing one if you climbed either early morning or late afternoon, when all of the hikers/porters are no longer on the trail.

    This duiker also hung around the ranger post at night, once the climbers had gone to sleep. Whether the duiker is mainly nocturnal is an interesting question. Many of the other large duiker species are frequently seen during the day. Until recently the Abbott’s duiker was only found in areas that were either unprotected or had very little protection, and that might have influenced their behaviour. The forests around Kilimanjaro for instance were only incorporated into the National Park in 2005, and before then there was heavy poaching in the area. Our camera trap surveys have shown that predominantly diurnal species become increasingly nocturnal in areas with high human disturbance, and this might be the case with the duiker as well. I suspect there will be increasing numbers of sightings along some of the Kilimanjaro climbing trails as the animals realise that the humans there pose little threat to them.

    However, all that said, given the presence of stray dogs in the Machame area, if you are thinking of looking for the animal I would go sooner rather than later.

    • Ralf Bürglin 7 months ago

      Thank you very much Charles. Very interesting. Cheers, Ralf

  4. Andrew Block 7 months ago

    What a great animal to see! Would love to see one. Been up Mt. Kenya, but never up Kilimanjaro. Wonder if I could do it:-) I think you seeing this was like me seeing the Steller’s Sea-Eagle in my own back yard in Maine, so to speak, recently. One of my top five most wanted birds:-)

    Andrew

    • Charles Foley 7 months ago

      From what people tell me, climbing Kilimanjaro is not that difficult if you do it in 6 days. Shaban told me he’d guided an 85 year old up to the top. It’s just 5 days of cold and misery, but I suppose that’s probably the same with all mountain climbing.

      Seeing a Sea-Eagle in your garden in Maine is pretty phenomenal. An honorary mammal that one!

      Charles

  5. tomeslice 7 months ago

    What an exciting trip report, Charles!

    How amazing is it when you have been searching for such an elusive creature for so long, and then it just appears in a clearing and hangs out, undisturbed by the noises!

    I think this was my kind of feeling when I first saw the jaguar, which I had wanted to see for several years prior (before I knew about mammalwatching.com), and I always thought I must walk silently through the forests. I did this in Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala and the Iguazu area… until finally I was on a boat in Brazil, a few meters away from a very relaxed jaguar, who couldn’t care less about our presence. Such an elated feeling 🙂

    Congrats again!
    Cheers,
    Tomer

    • Charles Foley 7 months ago

      Yes, those are the mammal sightings that really stand out aren’t they. If it’s easy to find, it just doesn’t have the same impact.

  6. Marcus Burkhardt 4 months ago

    Congratulations to Charles for that incredible sighting. I tried to see the Abbott’s myself in May at the same spot where this animal frequently appeared. I tried for nearly 3 days, using every minute of sunlight to observe the area but nothing came. I would highly recommend to stay in touch with Shaban Mputa, which I hired also for the trip. He has contact to the ranger’s hut staff and tries to get some recent photo evidence that the animal still is appearing. If not I would dehort from put up with big circumstances to see the animal, means if You don’t live in Tanzania You will probably come home with empty hands despite big efforts. The staff at the hut said the animal came 2 days ago, and the day before my arrival they were even 2. But who knows, I had to explain one of them the difference between bushbuck and dikdik. For me travelling from Germany now mostly to see the Abbott’s, it was a success as I have seen an incredible landscape and many other interesting animals not only at Kilimanjaro. It was my first flight in my life, first big mammal watching tour and I learned that it is important to have enough more or less guaranteed sightings on Your wishlist to, as I said, not come home with empty hands.

  7. Charles Foley 4 months ago

    Hi Marcus – I’m sorry you missed seeing the Abbott’s duiker after putting so much time and effort into it. Glad to hear that the rest of your trip to Tanzania went well though. I must admit, I’m curious to hear that on your first ever mammalwatching trip and your first ever plane flight, you went looking for a rare and obscure species of duiker, which I’m guessing would have been the first duiker species you’d seen. I suspect most people would have targeted the big charismatic megafauna of the Serengeti plains as their ‘most-wanted’ species. What is it about the Abbott’s duiker that particularly drew your attention?

    Charles

    • Marcus Burkhardt 4 months ago

      Hi Charles,

      thanks for the condolence. I knew of course about the possibility that the animal does not appear, and I can live surprisingly good with that.

      It is hard to say why I am such a big duiker fan. Probably because I am an animal lover as long as I can remember but duikers are not well discussed in public animal documentaries and books so first I learned about this animal group in 2012 at the age of 22! It took about 6-7 years more until I found out how diverse this group is. From that time on the Jentink’s duiker is my favorite animal. The last one at a zoo passed away not so long ago, now it must be as hard to see it as it is with the Abbott’s. But the relative abundance of photos on the internet of the Jentink’s made it my number 1 animal I want to see in life. The Abbott’s on the other hand was never on my wishlist, not because of a lack of interest, I just never expected to get a chance to see it. Early this year a Facebook friend shared Your trip report with me. It was the first time I have seen photos taken by a person of a wild Abbott’s duiker, and with the time the idea grew that tracking down the animal myself would be one of the greatest sightings in my life, I still count it as one of the most difficult antelopes to see. So I decided to try it, as it might be my only chance.

      Yes, the rest of the trip went well but I must say that even then I was not very lucky. I am specialized in bovids (since 2019 I visited almost every taxon to find in european zoos). All of my sightings in Tanzania were more or less guaranteed as far I can estimate it now. The only exception may be the chanler’s mountain reedbuck at Serengeti NP. Shaban was able to spot them far away from the street on a slope. We also searched for oribi one day in their habitat and range but seen none of them (I am totally happy to have seen steenbok several times!). We also went to Tsavo East for 2 days full game drive to see the hirola but also there no luck. The good thing was that the classic number 2 on my wishlist is the topi, and of course I saw them in high numbers at Serengeti.

      The Abbott’s duiker would have been the fifth duiker I have seen. I have seen Natal red-, yellow backed- and western blue duiker in German zoos and Harvey’s at Arusha NP the day before we went on the mountain. I am still astonished that not a single bush duiker appeared during my whole 2 weeks in East Africa with almost every day animal observation.

      I use my photos of animals and landscapes for paintings and drawings, as I am a freelancing artist and illustrator, with a big focus on bovids. Seeing the Abbott’s duiker should result in some artwork to raise some more attention on it. Technically, it should be no problem now. I took plenty of photos at Kilimajaro of their habitat, I have seen a not so bad stuffed specimen at Arusha natural history museum, and I took hundreds of photos of their closest relatives, the yellow backed duikers. Combined with the good photos of living Abbott’s on the web to see their anatomical singularities, I have enough to do my job now.

      I don’t know if I can ever afford a second trial but for others I hope that there will be again times where the species occurs somewhere. Let’s see if some current photos appear. I really wish I was there with You and Shaban when You spotted it!

      Marcus

  8. Charles Foley 4 months ago

    Hi Marcus, interesting to hear about your mammalwatching journey. Yes zoos in the US and Europe used to have a fairly large collection of Duiker species in past years, but they did not focus on breeding them and as a result many species have disappeared from zoo collections. I agree with you that seeing a Jentink’s duiker would be a fantastic sighting, and is certainly on my top 10 species. I should point out that it’s not surprising that you didn’t see a Bush duiker on your recent trip, as the species is quite uncommon in much of northern Tanzania. They do occur on Mt Kilimanjaro but are seldom seen on the south side.

    Once you’ve finished your drawing/painting of the Abbott’s duiker you should put a photo of it here. I’m sure people would like to see it, and you might get a interested buyer!

    Charles

  9. Marcus Burkhardt 4 months ago

    I will do so! But it could take a year to finish my painting 😉

    Shaban offered me that we could go to the Camp Shira 1 if the Abbott’s would have appeared at the first day, he told me the bush duikers there are not shy, but as You know finally I stayed the whole time at Machame camp. Later I have seen Your amazing book Lager Mammals of Tanzania in the jeep of our driver in Serengeti and read that these are even an undescribed subspecies.

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