One of World’s Rarest Animals, Walter’s Duiker, Photographed in Wild for the First Time

by Jon D. B.

With a remarkable set of photos, the world now has its first images of Walter’s duiker, one of the rarest mammals on the planet.

Thanks to The University of Oxford, UK, this exceptionally rare duiker species now knows preservation on film forever. While all duikers have become scarce, the Walter’s species, in particular, has evaded wildlife researchers for decades. So much so, in fact, that it took these 53 years to capture one on film since the species’ discovery in 1968.

In that timeframe, “Only 41 individuals have been found in the last few decades… Embodied only by skulls and carcasses spotted in bush beat markets in Benin, Togo and Nigeria,” cites EuroNews amidst the landmark photos.

Duikers are a family of small African antelope, with some resembling a sort of pygmy deer. While over a dozen species of duiker exist, scientists still know remarkably little about them. The photo used for this article is of a different, unspecified species of Duiker. It comes via South Africa in the 21st century as part of the Hoberman Collection.

Oxford is looking to change all that for the Walter’s duiker, however. Their “stunning” photos were published in the African Journal of Ecology this April. Now, the world sees this small, remarkably rare species on film for the first time in history.

The prestigious university’s images were taken in Togo, after WildCRU scientists deployed a remote camera to monitor Fazao-Malfakassa National Park. To put how rare this sighting is into context: the camera monitored the area for 9,000 days before capturing a single image of Walter’s duiker.

The Confounding Stealth of Walter’s Duiker

Oxford’s research team was led by local mammologist, Délagnon Assou, with Dr. Neil D’Cruze leading their base team. To see their world’s-first photos of Walter’s duiker, head through the tweet below:

“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,” adds WildCRU’s Director, Professor David Macdonald, to EuroNews.

Unfortunately, Fazao-Malfakassa National Park is host to a menagerie of illegal activities. Hunting, cattle grazing, trapping, bush fires, and timber exploitation are among the list. To this end, conservation within the park is vital. Walter’s duiker, however, remains unprotected. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has too little data to evaluate its conservation status. As a result, the species remains under a “data deficient” listing.

To this end, Dr Gabriel H. Segniagbeto, Associate Professor of taxonomy and zoological systematic at Togo’s University of Lomé, says it is absolutely crucial that the IUCN and other agencies move to protect this critical national park – and the extremely rare species within.

“It is critically important to recognise the importance of the protected area system of Togo, which acts as a vital stronghold for a rich diversity of wild mammals,” says Segniagbeto. “We hope our exciting find – the first live image of Walters Duiker in the wild – will increase the call for further protection of our remaining forest and savannah.”

As for the species’ particular name, “Walter’s” comes in honor of Professor Walter Verheyen. Verheyen was the first scientist to find and document a specimen of this species of duiker in 1968.