Neotragus moschatussuni

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Geographic Range

Neotragus moschatus is found exclusively in south-eastern coastal regions of Africa ranging from south-eastern Kenya to Natal and Transvaal of north-eastern South Africa. It has also been found on the islands of Zanzibar and Mafia off the coast of Tanzania (Huffman 2001; GISBAU-ADM 1999). Subspecies have been observed on Mt. Kilimanjaro (Mochi and Carter 1971).

Habitat

Suni are found in thick, dry underbrush either in montane forests above 9000 feet or in riparian reed scrub (Honolulu Zoo; GISBAU-ADM 1999).

Physical Description

Neotragus moschatus is named for its pungent smell originating from preorbital glands that produce a musky secretion (Huffman 2001). It has a slender build and relatively high hindquarters. Dorsally it has a speckled appearance and varies from gray to rich chestnut with a reddish tinge. The sides of its body are paler and the underparts, the chin, throat, and the insides of the legs, are white. The eye is surrounded by a pale ring while each leg is ringed with a black band above the hoof. Only male Suni have horns, which range from 6.5 cm to 13.3 cm. The horns are wideset, black, ridged, and slant back in line with the face. Suni are distinguishable from other small antelope by the absence of tufts of long hair on their heads and knees (Huffman 2001; Honolulu Zoo; Roberts 1951).

  • Range mass
    4 to 6 kg
    8.81 to 13.22 lb
  • Range length
    57 to 62 cm
    22.44 to 24.41 in

Reproduction

Males defend territories of three hectares which they demarcate with preorbital gland secretions. The peripheries of these territories may additionally be marked with individual or communal dung piles (Huffman 2001).

Adult male suni generally associate with one to four females (Huffman 2001).

  • Breeding season
    November - March
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    6 (low) months
  • Average gestation period
    6 months
  • Average weaning age
    2 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 18 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 to 18 months

Young suni are darker in color than adults and are therefore kept well hidden until their coloration provides adequate camouflage (Huffman 2001).

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Neotragus moschatus is usually described as shy and secretive. Suni are active during the night and evenings. They spend the day sleeping in sheltered and shaded areas (Honolulu Zoo; Huffman 2001).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Based on studies of stomach anatomy and digestive physiology, it had been hypothesized that Neotragus moschatus required food with high energy content that was easily digestible and low in fiber such as fruit, flowers, and growing tips of dicotyledon shoots. Further studies, however, have revealed that suni's diet is composed primarily of fallen leaf litter which is abundant in their habitat but of low nutritional quality (Lawson 1989). N. moschatus associates with Sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis albogularis) and red colobus (Colobus badius kirkii) when feeding opportunistically on fallen fruit in Zanzibar (East 1989). Suni derive their moisture from vegetation and thus are not dependent on water sources (Honolulu Zoo).

Foods eaten include: fallen leaves, buds, shoots, fruits and fungi (Huffman 2001; Lawson 1989).

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit

Predation

The coloration and spectacled appearance of Neotragus moschatus' provide considerable camouflage, which it uses to its advantage by freezing and remaining hidden in response to danger. Only when a potential predator is "nearly on top of them" do suni escape by leaping quickly out of sight (Huffman 2001).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although its secretive nature and excellent camouflage make Neotragus moschatus difficult to find, it is hunted. It thus contributes positively to the tourism industry and economy of the countries in which it is found (East 1989).

Conservation Status

The IUCN has classified Neotragus moschatus as a low risk, conservation dependent species (Huffman 2001). The status of N. moschatus varies widely across its range. It is listed as vulnerable in South Africa, not threatened in Mozambique, rare in Zimbabwe, and satisfactory in Tanzania. Suni are threatened primarily by habitat destruction, caused in part by large numbers of Tragelaphus angasii, and by uncontrolled hunting with dogs, nets, and snares. Conservation efforts include habitat management and imposition of six-month suni hunting seasons (East 1989).

Contributors

Suhani Bora (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Bret Weinstein (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

August 23, 1999. "GISBAU African Mammals Databank *Neotragus moschatus*" (On-line). Accessed November 18, 2001 at http://www.gisbau.uniroma1.it/amd/amd182b.htm.

"Honolulu Zoo - Suni" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2001 at http://216.235.38.112:3025/suni.htm.

East, R. 1989. Antelopes Global Survey and Regional Action Plan: Parts 1 and 2. Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group.

Huffman, Brent, 8/22/01. "The Ultimate Ungulate" (On-line). Accessed October 28, 2001 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/suni.html.

Lawson, D., 1989. The food habits of suni antelopes (*Neotragus moschatus*). The Journal of Zoology, 217: 441-448.

Mochi, U., D. Carter. 1971. Hoofed Mammals of the World. Great Britain: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Roberts, A. 1951. The Mammals of South Africa. New York: Hafner Publishing Company.