The African chevrotain, also known as the water chevrotain, is endemic to tropical regions of the African continent. While its range is primarily restricted to coastal regions, this species occurs from Sierra Leone to western Uganda.
(Robin 1990, Nowak 1999)
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
The water chevrotain is a small animal that resembles a deer (Cervidae). This species is larger than its Asian counterparts, maintaining a size similar to a rabbit. The water chevrotain has a body length of between 45 and 85 cm and a tail length ranging from 7.5 to 17 cm. Animals of this species weigh 7-15 kg, however, the average weight for males is only 9.7 kg, whereas females average 12 kg. The weight at birth is unknown.
Hyemoschus aquaticus has a small, pointed head and a stocky body set on slender, delicate legs. The rear of the body is wedge-shaped and slightly raised relative to the rest of the body. Neither sex has antlers, but males of the species have well developed sharp tusks that extend below the lips of the animal.
The pelage has stripes and spots that camouflage the animal within the shaded areas of the forest. The water chevrotain has white stripes on its head and neck and a white underside to its tail. It has large eyes, slit-like nostrils and medium-sized ears.
(Robin 1990, Nowak 1999)
Range mass: 7 to 15 kg.
Average mass: 9.7-12 kg.
Range length: 45 to 85 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; ornamentation
The African chevrotain can be found in tropical rain forests and thickets rarely more than 250 m away from water. At night, chevrotains can be observed in exposed clearings and open river banks but during the day, the animal cannot be found outside of the dense forest.
(Robin 1990, Kingdon 1979)
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
This species is primarily herbivorous, feeding on the leaves, fruits, and buds of trees and shrubs. It has occasionally been observed eating insects, crustaceans and even small mammals. Like many herbivores, the water chevrotain has various adaptations to facilitate effective digestion of its low-nutrient diet. Chevrotains are considered to be true ruminants, with a 4-chambered ruminating stomach.
(Robin 1990, Dubost 1984)
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: wild: 13.0 years.
Status: wild: 14.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
When a female enters estrus, she is courted by the male who follows her movements and makes vocalizations. The cry of the male stops the female's movement, at which point the male licks her genital area. This pattern is repeated over some time. The male mounts the female by laying his body over hers and copulation takes place.
The gestation period is 6 to 9 months, and females give birth to one young a year. Due to the presence of four mammae in the females of this species, researchers suggest that they are capable of larger litters. Water chevrotains give birth to precocial young, capable of standing within an hour after birth. Females spend most of their day apart from their young and meet only to suckle them. Lactation lasts 3-6 months and the young disperse from the mother's home range when they reach sexual maturity (between 9 and 26 months).
(Nowak 1999, Kingdon 1979)
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average gestation period: 175 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.25.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 403 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 403 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Hyemoschus aquaticus
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hyemoschus aquaticus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Overall numbers of this species are currently decreasing due to hunting by humans and habitat destruction for timber resources. It is unlikely that this species will survive the habitat destruction it currently faces. This species is classified as near threatened by the IUCN and the species is also listed under appendix III of CITES in Ghana.
(Kingdon 1979, Grubb 1993)
CITES: appendix iii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2000Data Deficient
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
H. aquaticus occupies tropical rain forests which are utilized by humans as a source of timber. Although currently classifies as near threatened, the protection of this species could cause negative economic effects to timber harvesters.
The water chevrotain is avidly hunted by humans. (Nowak 1999)
The water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), also known as the fanged deer, is a small ruminant found in tropical Africa. It is the largest of the ten species of chevrotains, basal even-toed ungulates which are similar to deer but are barely larger than small dogs.
The water chevrotain is endemic to the tropical regions of Africa. While it primarily lives in the coastal regions, the species can be found from Sierra Leone to western Uganda.
The water chevrotain can be found in closed canopy moist tropical lowland forest, and within this habitat, they only occupy areas within close range to streams or rivers. The area is rarely inhabited by the species if it is further than 250 m away from water. During the day, chevrotains can not be found outside of the dense forest; but at night they can be observed in exposed clearings and open river banks.
Unusually for most vertebrates, female water chevrotains are larger than males. On average, they weigh over two kilograms more than the 10 kg males. Their body length is about 85 cm, and their shoulder height is around 35 cm. Water chevrotains have a rich, sleek red-brown coat on top, and the underside of the coat is white. On the body, there is a pattern of white stripes that run horizontally from the shoulder to the tail, with vertical rows of white stripes in the back. The chin, throat and chest are covered in very course hair with a pattern of white V shapes. The back end of the water chevrotain is full of powerful muscles and is quite a bit higher than the shoulders, which makes the body slope downward. The head is held down toward the ground while walking, which allows the water chevrotain to navigate easily through thickets of dense brush. There is a layer of thick, reinforced skin on the dorsal surface, which protects the back from injuries caused by the thick brush. The legs look short and thin compared to the bulky body, and the hooves are similar to a pig’s. The tail is short with a fluffy white underside that resembles a cotton ball.
The water chevrotain is exclusively nocturnal, and forages for food in clearings at night. During the day, the water chevrotain hides in the dense cover of the African brush. The resting postures of the species include lying down and sitting up. Because they’re such a solitary species, the interactions between water chevrotains are only agnostic and reproductive encounters. Males fight other males, mainly over territory. Their fights are typically short, and in them the two competing males run at each other, mouths open. They poke each other with their muzzles and bite. These aggressive fights are thought to be the reason that mature male Water chevrotains normally live no closer than several kilometers apart. The water chevrotain has several different noises that it makes, which include a scream when injured/wounded and an alarm bark. When females fight, they make a high pitched chattering noise, and when pursuing a female, males make a noise through a closed mouth.
It is estimated that the total population of the water chevrotain species is around 278,000. The ICUN Red List has given the status “Least Concern” to the Water chevrotain. Because of its solitary nature, there is very little information about its population in each individual country, but recently there has been evidence that shows the population is declining in some areas.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Hyemoschus aquaticus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 26 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- "Hyemoschus aquaticus". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved February 2013.
- "Hyemoschus aquaticus". Ungulates of the World. Retrieved February 2013.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Hyemoschus aquaticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved February 2013.