New species of antelope discovered
Erik Verheyen, Gontran Sonet and Zoltán T. Nagy, three scientists from the Museum, have, with the team of international researchers they are members of, discovered a new species of antelope that occurs in Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
It is a very small antelope, measuring no more than around 40 cm at the shoulder and weighing four to six kilograms. It belongs to the duiker subfamily of antelopes. The Afrikaans name, 'duiker', meaning 'diver', comes from the habit these timid animals have of diving into the vegetation at the slightest sign of danger.
The new species has been named Philantomba walteri, or 'Walter’s duiker' in homage to Erik Verheyen’s father, Professor Walter Verheyen (°1932-†2005). As professor at Antwerp University, he was the first scientist to collect a specimen of this species.
Until now only two species of antelope had been recognised within the genus Philantomba. Both are widely distributed in West and Central Africa where they are hunted extensively. Their horns are used in traditional medicine and their meat is much in demand at bushmeat markets. It was known that one of these species, namely Maxwell’s duiker (Philantomba maxwelli), showed a geographical variation between different populations. Morphological studies and DNA tests have now shown that some of these populations form a distinct species.