Despite what their name may imply, royal antelope (neotragus pygmaeus) are small creatures, about the size of a rabbit. Their head and body measure 15 to 19 inches (40 to 50 centimeters) in length and their tails are about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) long. They stand 9 inches (25 centimeters) tall at the shoulder and weigh 3 to 6 pounds (1.5 to 3 kilograms). Royal antelope have long, slender legs with the hind legs being longer than the front ones. The males will grow a small pair of smooth, cone-shaped horns that are black and measure about 1 inch (3.5 centimeters) long.
Royal antelope are only found in the rainforest of the Guinea forest block in West Africa. They tend to inhabit forested areas with dense undergrowth as well as farmland. Due to their diminutive size, much of their lifestyle is unknown. They are nocturnal, so they are active at nighttime and rest during the day. They either live together or in mating pairs. Royal antelope territories are very small, only about 328 square feet (100 square meters). They will mark their territories with piles of dung.
The diet of royal antelope consists of fungi, leaves, fruits, shoots and flowers. Predators that they must look out for include birds of prey as well as snakes. If they sense danger, they will first crouch and crawl into cover to try and avoid being detected. If the threat gets too close, they will take flight, zipping through the undergrowth and leaping over obstacles. Royal antelope have strong legs and can jump up to 9 feet into the air.
It is thought that royal antelope give birth to their young from November to December. Females give birth to a single calf every year. The babies are born with the same coloration as the adults (reddish-brown with white undersides, legs, chins and a white tuft on the end of their tail) and weigh about 10.5 ounces (300 grams). They are nursed by their mother for about the first 2 months of their lives. If the young ones can survive to adulthood, they may live to be 6 years old.
Royal antelope are a truly interesting species of antelope. There is still much mystery surrounding them as they are hard to keep track of. They do face the threat of habitat loss, as many other creatures do. With a little effort though, this species will never have to be labeled as highly endangered. After all, such an adorable creature deserves to live and prosper far into the future.
“Neotragus pygmaeus” 1 December 2010
“Royal Antelope” 1 December 2010