The tiny fuzzball, looked at us with its mouse-like eyes, framed by its round, even more mouse-like ears. It’s amazingly difficult to get a clear view of any Blue Duiker; here we were quietly watching a baby of the species. It spent most of its time staring, without blinking, at our group. It seemed to be wondering what type of primate we might be. We froze, letting the tiniest of African Antelopes study us to its hearts content. As long as it wanted to be in our presence, we would humor it. Finally, with incredibly slow movements for a species whose adults streak rather than stroll, the infant slid into the surrounding darkness of the Sand Forest undergrowth.
Like Red Duikers, Blue Duikers are iconic fixtures of Coutada 11. No believable census numbers have ever appeared for any of the Pygmy Antelopes in the Marromeu Complex. This is not because scientists don’t care to know. Imagine trying to count how many ants are present by trying to see the ground through thick grass from the top of a 10 foot ladder. That is not even close to how difficult it is to see Red Duikers, Blue Duikers or Sunis using aerial surveys through a forest canopy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that all these species are extremely plentiful, and growing in abundance. The Professional Hunters in Coutada 11 have no difficulty in finding more than acceptable trophy males for their clients, and daylight sightings along roads and in forests continue to increase in frequency. But, regardless of numbers, none of these three species is easy to hunt. This is doubly true for the tiny Blue Duiker.
Some might argue that the taking of the smallest of Africa’s pygmy antelopes reflects mere sport and not provision of meat or conservation. This is inaccurate. Every scrap of meat from my Blue Duiker went to feed Sena locals. And, the fees paid supported anti-poaching, schooling for children etc. Neither my Blue Duiker, nor any other animal taken by trophy hunters in the Marromeu Complex, dies without providing protein and funds for ecosystem conservation.
It would also be inaccurate to state that we hunters view the taking of an animal as a purely transactional event – fees for hunting a Blue Duiker = X-amount of conservation effort. It is more nuanced than that. Some hunters may never consider the conservation consequences of their sport. Others (like me) may overthink this aspect, and not enjoy the pursuit as much as they could or should. Yet, restoration and conservation come about regardless of the mindset of individual trophy hunting enthusiasts, if, and this is an uppercase IF, the men and women coordinating the hunting dedicate themselves to helping the resurrection of the local people and ecosystems. This is what is occurring in the Zambeze Delta Coutadas.
Excerpt from Mike’s Upcoming Book: BRINGING BACK THE LIONS: International Hunters, Local Tribespeople, and the Miraculous Rescue of a Doomed Ecosystem in Mozambique