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Imagine: your Range Rover put puts across the African savannah in search of some of the most ferocious creatures on land. The world is quiet and the sun is tucked away from the darkness of night. Your Range Rover headlights beam in an attempt to catch the reflective beady eyes of savage beasts when suddenly two eyes emerge from the darkness! And then suddenly another two pairs of eyes emerge from the darkness! You screech your tires against the rough terrain of rocks, nearly throwing your passengers out of the vehicle to get a better look through your binocs. Although anxious that you had nearly lost the original pair of eyes, your heart drops when you get that close-up, bruise-inducing look at the creature you’ve just found. Banging your head on the steering wheel and getting rolling eyes from the people in the car, you realize you’ve just hit upon a dik-dik- a 12-16 inch tall excuse for an antelope.

With a head disproportionate to its body and a tiny Alfalfa-like tuft of hair coming out from the top of its head in females and meek little horns rising atop its head in males, the dik-dik is cute in the same peculiar way one thinks a Chihuahua is “kinda” cute: they’re little, they’re pathetically helpless, they’re very territorial, their eyes are big and nervous, and to most (myself not included) they are a nuisance that many want to punt. Females are able to detect a foreign presence on her male’s territory and upon doing so they begin a cry of alarm, which then alerts all other animals nearby to flee. This can be a problem for scientists, naturalists, or predatory hunters. But this mode of protection is needed.

Way at the bottom of the food chain, these rather adorable-looking ungulates, or hoofed mammals, sadly never experience old age- they all die from predation (or top-down circumstances from being eaten by big guys). All this said, why are dik-diks monogamous if they will have a high likelihood of dying? Shouldn’t they want to spread the love seed around as quickly as they could? Well, in fact, their mode of making cries of alarm and having one male pay particularly close attention to one female and their one fawn at a time demonstrates this survival and reproductive mechanism. In order to sequester his lady and not allow any other male to swoop in on his love nest, her male follows her to mask her scent. Below the corner of each eye is a preorbital gland that produces this sticky secretion that dik-diks then rub up against grass and twigs to mark his territory.

Our African little “deers” are true lovers, protecting one another until the very end. Once one lover dies, the other follows soon thereafter because they truly depend on each other for finding food and protection. So essentially, the seemingly deplorable dik-dik is the case example of the perfect love story…

Want to know more about the dik-dik? Let me know! Until then, stay wild as our African journey continues…