Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Water chevrotains are, except for during the mating season, solitary animals (3), with females inhabiting isolated home ranges and male ranges overlapping those of at least two females (2). Ranges are marked with faeces impregnated with anal gland secretions, and urine (3). Shy and secretive animals, water chevrotains are mostly active at night and are never found without the protection of dense cover in the day (2) (3). Their small size makes them fairly easy prey for a number of predators; when threatened the chevrotain either stands motionless amongst vegetation, or can dive into water (2). As its name suggests, it is capable in water, but can only swim for short periods before tiring (2) (3). Fallen fruits, such as figs, palm nuts and breadfruit make up the majority of the water chevrotain's diet, although it has also been known to feed on insects, crabs, scavenged meat and fish. It relies on its sense of smell to locate food (2), and being ruminants, they have a gut modified to ferment the food (3) A single young is born each year after a gestation of around four months. The young chevrotain lies up for the first three months of its life, receiving frequent nourishment from its mother's milk during periodic visits (2). At around nine months, the young are weaned and disperse from their mother's range. While water chevrotains are believed to be able to live for up to 13 years, few survive beyond eight years of age (2).
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Description

Chevrotains, also known as mouse deer, are the intermediates in appearance between pigs and deer (3). The water chevrotain has, like the other three chevrotain species, a compact body with a short, thick neck and small, narrow head. The limbs appear short and thin in relation to its bulky body, and its feet resemble miniature pig's trotters. The sleek coat of the water chevrotain is reddish-brown marked with distinctive white streaks and bold spots, and the tail reveals a vivid white underside when raised. Dense, thick skin on the rump and throat protect it from bites from the sharp canines of other water chevrotains (2); the canine teeth of the male are long and protrude outside the mouth, while those of the female are more peg-like. Male water chevrotains are smaller than females, weighing about 20 percent less (3).
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Distribution

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 )

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Range Description

Endemic to West and Central Africa, ranging across the forest belt from Sierra Leone and south-eastern Guinea, through Liberia, southern Côte d’Ivoire into south-west Ghana. Then ranges in southern Nigeria, east of the Niger River, through the central forest block, across southern Cameroon, Gabon, Cabinda (Angola), Congo and DR Congo to extreme western Uganda, where now believed extirpated (East 1999; Hart in press). A record from Angola's Lunda Norte Province, near the Cassai River, is the southernmost record of the species from the continent (Crawford-Cabral and Veríssimo 2005).
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Range

Occurs in western and central Africa rain forests, from Guinea to Gabon, and east to western Uganda (2) (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

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

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Ecology

Habitat

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

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Chevrotains are confined to closed-canopy, moist tropical lowland forest, and within this habitat, they only occupy areas in the vicinity of streams and rivers. However, the Water Chevrotain is not a swamp specialist, and often ranges in mature upland forest areas (Hart in press).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The water chevrotain inhabits river valleys within lowland rainforest, along the edges of swamps and streams (2), usually within 250 metres of freshwater (5).
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Trophic Strategy

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)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
13.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
14.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: Little is known about the longevity of these animals. It has been suggested that they live up to 14 years in the wild (David Macdonald 1985).
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Reproduction

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.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Hyemoschus aquaticus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hyemoschus aquaticus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group

Reviewer/s
Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as least Concern as the total population is estimated at some 280,000 animals. Although declining due to bushmeat hunting and habitat loss, this rate is not believed to be sufficient to warrant the listing of the species in a threatened category. However, if present trends continue, then the Water chevrotain’s status is likely to decline within the next few decades.

History
  • 2000
    Data Deficient
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Status

Classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
In the Ituri Forest, densities of 1.5-5.0/km²have been recorded (Hart in press). Higher densities (28/km²) have been reported in Gabon (Dubost 1978). East (1999) estimated the total population size at around 278,000 animals, with populations generally in decline.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The main threats to this species are habitat loss and bushmeat hunting. In the central Ituri Forest, chevrotains are regularly caught by the Mbuti net hunters, and consistently represent about five percent of total catch, even in areas that have been hunted for years (Hart in press).
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Hunting has reduced numbers of the water chevrotain in many parts of its range (2), particularly in Gabon where it is hunted intensively by local people for food (5). The water chevrotain is also known to be affected by human disturbance, such as expanding agriculture, and animals leaving disturbed areas are unlikely to survive (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Water Chevrotains occur in several protected areas, including: Sapo N. P. and Grebo National Forest (Liberia), Tai N. P. (Côte d’Ivoire), Lobeke N. P. (Cameroon), Lope N. P. and Minkebe N.P. (Gabon), Maiko N.P. Kahuzi-Biega N.P. and Okapi Faunal Reserve (DR Congo) and Odzala and Nouabale-Ndoki (Congo Republic) (East 1999).
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Conservation

A Conservation Action Plan for deer species was published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Deer Specialist Group in 1998. The primary measure outlined for the water chevrotain was to undertake further research to determine the species' status in the wild (5). The water chevrotain is also known to occur in a number of protected areas, such as Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (6). However, protecting the water chevrotain from the significant threat of bushmeat hunting is unlikely to occur through these measures alone; it is a complex issue requiring a diversity of approaches, including education, the implementation and enforcement of laws, and anti-poaching operations (7).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

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.

(Robin 1990)

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The water chevrotain is avidly hunted by humans.  (Nowak 1999)

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Wikipedia

Water chevrotain

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.

Geographic range[edit]

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.[2]

Habitat[edit]

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.[3]

Physical description[edit]

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.[3]

Behavior[edit]

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.[3]

Conservation status[edit]

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.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "Hyemoschus aquaticus". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Hyemoschus aquaticus". Ungulates of the World. Retrieved February 2013. 
  4. ^ 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. 
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