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).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Zanzibar (and nearby islands)
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.
Range length: 57 to 62 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: ornamentation
Suni are found in thick, dry underbrush either in montane forests above 9000 feet or in riparian reed scrub (Honolulu Zoo; GISBAU-ADM 1999).
Habitat Regions: tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Habitat and Ecology
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
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore )
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).
- large cats (Felidae)
- birds of prey (Falconiformes and Strigiformes)
- snakes (Serpentes)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 10 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 9.0 years.
Status: captivity: 10.2 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
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).
Mating System: polygynous
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.
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.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 1.
Young suni are darker in color than adults and are therefore kept well hidden until their coloration provides adequate camouflage (Huffman 2001).
Parental Investment: altricial
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Neotragus moschatus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Neotragus moschatus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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).
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 07/27/1979
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Neotragus moschatus, see its USFWS Species Profile
East (1999) produced a total population estimate of 365,000 (East 1999). The population trend is probably stable over large parts of its range, but decreasing in settled areas where hunting pressures are very high and in some protected areas with an overpopulation of nyala.
In 1995, a total of 39 captive-bred suni were released in an area of dense bush in north-eastern Kruger National Park which is believed to comprise suitable habitat, but by early 1998 there was no evidence that this reintroduction had been successful (East 1999).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
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).
Suni are around 12–17 inches (30–43 cm) high at the shoulder and weigh 10–12 pounds (4.5–5.4 kg). They are usually reddish brown, darker on their back than their sides and legs. The belly, chin, throat and insides of legs are white. The nostrils are prominent red, and there are black rings around the eyes and above the hooves. Males have horns 3–5 inches (8–13 cm) long, that are ridged most of their length and curve backwards close to their heads. Females do not have horns. Suni can make weak barking and whistling sounds.
Suni feed on leaves, fungi, fruits and flowers, and need almost no free water. They are shy, most active at night, and sleep during the day in a shady, sheltered area. They are social but males defend a territory of about 3 hectares. They scent-mark the boundaries with secretions from their preorbital glands. There may be an individual or communal dung pile on the periphery of the territory. A male usually takes one mate, but other females may share his territory. A single calf is born weighing about two pounds, after a gestation of 183 days.
Lions, birds of prey, snakes, and other meat-eaters prey on suni. For protection, they are well camouflaged in dry grass and keep very still. When a predator is almost on top of them, they spring out and bound away into the underbrush.