The ability of Guenther’s dik-diks to survive without access to water makes them ideally suited for life in the heat. The dik-dik’s body makes the most economical water use of all ungulate mammals ever studied. Even its pronounced nose decreases water loss and cools the blood going to the brain.
The dik-dik (or digidigi in swahili) hindquarters are at the same level or higher than the shoulder. Its pelage is soft, with colouration ranging from yellowish grey to reddish brown on the dorsal side and white to greyish on the ventral. They have a short tail (3 to 5 cm long), hairy on the dorsal side and naked on the ventral side.
Guenther’s dik-dik Males have short black horns (up to 9.8 cm long) and are either straight or curved backward from the profile. The ringed horns become more circular towards the tips and are sometimes hidden by a tuft of hair on the forehead.
Their eyes are large and black, and their eyelids and preorbital glands are also black. The ears of Guenther’s dik-diks are large and white on the inside. Their legs are slender and long, black hooves pointed anteriorly, and accessory hooves are diminutive.
Since the females are larger and do not possess horns, Guenther’s dik-dik is sexually dimorphic. Both sexes have a crest of hair, but the crest of males is typically more brightly coloured and longer.
Another distinguishing feature of Guenther’s dik-diks is its elongated snout that can go in all directions. Madoqua guentheri can be distinguished from a similar species, Madoqua kirkii, by their long nose. The snout results in reduced nasal and premaxillary bones.
It is thought that their nose is a thermoregulatory device. Arterial blood is diverted to membranes in the snout and cooled through an evaporative process.
This tiny antelope is found in the dry savannahs around Kidepo Valley National Park, but it’s tough to spot unless you’re quizzically out to find it.
Dik-diks are territorial and mark their boundaries with dung and scent. Fights, particularly among neighbouring males, occur along these boundaries, although they are mostly ceremonial and rarely involve physical contact. Females also defend their regions, which is very rare in female antelopes.
Not worrying about water allows dik-diks to live in small territories that remain stable and constant for many years. That gives them an advantage over predators, as dik-diks can use their intimate knowledge of their environments and speed to escape attacks.
Due to the extreme heat, dik-diks are most active in the early morning and evening; they spend the day’s heat resting in the shade. During the day, they stay within their territories; pairs may venture out to find food at night.
Grazing during the coolest parts of the day allows dik-diks to eat leaves when they contain the highest possible amount of water. Because they can extract all the water their bodies need from these water-plump plants, they do not need access to other water sources. When they drink, which is rare, they lap water like a cat.
Because of their short stature, dik-diks are limited in how high they can browse. However, they have learned that they can expand their diet by sticking close to larger animals, such as greater kudus, elephants, and giraffes.
They simply wait for their tall friends to break off branches and leaves. This help is vital during the dry season when dik-diks would otherwise have to rely mainly on fallen leaves and flowers for food.
In Uganda, You can find Guenther’s dik-dik in the dry savannahs of Kedepo Valley National Park. Kidepo Valley lies in the arid extreme northeastern corner.
Although highly rated by savvy wildlife travellers, Kidepo Valley is not popular with many tourists because of its previous record of inadequate access roads. But lately, tourists can drive from Kampala to kidepo in less than 10 hours on a newly surfaced Gulu highway.
Since the dik-dik is one of the most challenging animals to spot, you must book a more extended visit to increase your chances of photographing this pretty antelope.