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The Dik dik is a small antelope that is found in almost all National parks and reserves. It is a shy and hard to spot as its coat colour and size blends well with vegetation. Its distinguishing features are its large dark eyes with a white ring of far around them. They also have an elongated snout that they use for blood cooling. It is also one of the few animals shown to demonstrate monogamous relationship as mates pair for life. The Dik dik is not currently under threat of extinction according to IUCN but is facing a considerable threat in Kenya from poaching to supply the cheap bush meat trade. At the moment the only way to determine what animal the impounded bush meat belongs to is by looking at its hide or other distinguishing features. I hope to use both invasive and non invasive sample collection using blood and dung respectively from different populations of Dik dik in Kenya, extract DNA from them and look for unique mitochondria markers that can be used to positively identify Dik dik meat. This will go a long way in prosecuting those found poaching as it will offer a clean and easy to present form of evidence compared to the current use of carcasses as evidence. Given the accuracy of using DNA, forensic evidence will be a sure way of convicting offenders and will act as a deterrent to other poachers. Kenyas wildlife is our heritage so we should protect it for the future generations to come.



The Kirk's Dik dik is a tiny antelope that obtained its name from the whistling sound it produces through the nose when frightened or disturbed. Scientifically it's known as Madoqua kirkii. It weighs about 2.7 to 7 kilograms. From nose to tail it may measure 55 to 77 centimeters and has a shoulder height of 35 to 45 centimeters. (


The Dik dik's coat is grey-brown to reddish brown depending on their habitat. Their undersides, including the insides of the legs and bottom of the chin, are white.  Dik diks have large dark eyes with white fir forming a white ring around them. There is a black spot located inside corner of each eye that contains a preorbital gland that produces a dark sticky secretion that the Dik dik uses to mark its territory by inserting a grass stem or twig into the gland to scent-mark. They also have an elongated snout which acts as its blood cooling mechanism. Only males bear the corrugated horns, which may grow up to 11.4 cm.

The Dik dik has a lifespan of 3 to 4 years but this has been shown to rise to 10 years in captivity due to improved diet and protection from predators. The female has a gestation period of up to 6 months and births only one kid. Both parents care for the young, and abandon it when a new kid is born. Weaning is at 3 to 4 months. Females reach sexual maturity at 6-8 months while males reach sexual maturity at 8-9 months. (

1.2.1 Ecology and Behavior

Kirk's dik-dik usually feed in the morning and late afternoon to avoid the heat but may at times go on throughout the night. They feed on foliage, shoots, fruits and berries and rarely drink because they get their water from the vegetation they eat. Salt is also a major requirement and are seen frequenting salt licks. Mated pairs mate for life and defend a territory 13-75 acres in size. Due to their short stature the prefer areas with good ground cover and short herbage and are seen to move out of an area when vegetation become too high to obstruct their view.

They have a well developed eye sight, scent and hearing therefore are very alert. When in danger they tend to hide instead of flee. (

1.2.2 Predators and Threats

Among the Dik dik's predators are the Lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, hyena, cape hunting dog, jackals, crocodile, and python. However man is also a serious threat as they hunt them for their meat and bones that are used in traditional jewelry. Their skin is also used to make suede gloves.

Small bones from the dikdik's legs and feet are used in traditional jewelry. Their skins are often made into suede for gloves. (

1.2.3 Distribution

Dik dik are mostly found in East Africa, with a small, isolated population along the coast of south West Africa. (


Dik dik exhibit a monogamous type of relationship whereby paired mates mate for life. For this reason research was conducted to determine if this hypothesis was true. According to microsatellite analysis conducted by P. N. M. Brotherton, there were no significant deviations from strict monogamy: the males' genotypes matched the paternal contribution in all putative father, mother, and offspring trios. (P. N. M. Brotherton et al 1997)

This they were able to explain by the fact that males guard their mates closely during oestrus and over-mark all female scent, thereby reducing the likelihood of other males attempting to mate. (


The climatic changes coupled with mis-management of environmental resources like over grazing and deforestation has reduced most Kenyan farmlands to barren land unfit for any type of farming to take place.

Drought is now a yearly event. According to the De-Snaring Report for February 2010 conducted by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, these factors have seen an increase in poaching throughout the country as people look for an alternative source of food. (

Another contributing factor is the increasing numbers of poachers earning a living from poaching by supplying the bush meat market with cheap meat. According to the Daily Nation poachers sell dik dik meat for Sh200 per carcass to residents who cannot afford meat going for Sh300 a kilo. (Sunday nation September 20 2009)

In the above de snaring exercise, a total 189 snares were found. The Team also arrested five poachers; four of them were in possession of bush meat.

It is clear to see that with all the above factors and evidence, conservation efforts in Kenya are facing some tough times ahead. As long as people struggle to make a living, they will do anything even break the law just to put food on the table (

I therefore propose a mitochondrial DNA study so as to identify unique D loop markers that can be used to positively identify Dik dik meat from impounded bush meat so as to aid in conservation strategies.


"Bush meat is a big thing in Kenya today," says Alice Owen of Born Free. "Statistics show that Kenya has lost 60 per cent of its wildlife in the past 30 years. We're the generation that's caused the loss." (The East African by Rupi Mangat Friday, April 10 2009).

Currently Kenya lacks strict laws governing the sale of bush meat. This is coupled by lack of evidence as most of it (meat) will rot before the court hearing. The use of forensics will overcome this huddle as well as offer sound evidence that can be used to convict those found in possession of bush meat. (


Forensic science cannot be used to identify bush meet.


1.7.1General objective

To undertake a mitochondrial DNA study of the Dik dik in Kenya.

1.7.2 Specific objectives

To identify mitochondrial DNA markers that can be used to identify Dik dik meat forensically.

To compare between blood and dung as a source of DNA.

To generate a mitochondrial DNA database for the Dik dik in Kenya



The field work will be carried out at 3 KWS protected parks. The collected samples will be transported and analysed at JKUAT IBR, ILRI and National museums laboratories.



Liquid Nitrogen

Assorted needles and syringes

Plain tubes

EDTA tubes

Cryo vials

Gauze swabs

Non sterile gloves

Scalpel blades


Eppendorf tubes


Plastic pipettes

Universal tubes

Antibiotic spray


Etorphine twin packs

Xylazine 10%

Danject darts

Danject needles



An invasive and non invasive sampling approach will be carried out and the results compared. For invasive, it will involve tranquilizing the animal and drawing 50ml of blood while the non invasive will be the collection of 50g of dung. Sampling will be at random. A total of 10 samples for each sample type will be collected from each park making the entire sample size 60.


KWS is the custodian of all wildlife in Kenya and for this reason a permit will be procured to allow sample collection.


The blood samples will be collected using 50ml syringes and the dung will be scooped and stored in 50 ml plastic containers containing 95% ethanol and placed in a cooler at 4O c for transportation to the laboratory. At the laboratory, the samples will be cryopreserved awaiting DNA extraction.


DNA extraction will be done using the DNeasy Qiagen kit TM according to manufacturer's instructions and DNA concentration estimated by fluorometer or a nanodrop.

Marker selection will be carried out using published microsatellite DNA loci from related animals if available and developed if not.

Polymerized chain reaction will be done under optimized conditions to obtain multiple copies of target.

Genotyping procedures will be carried out which involves sequencing and blasting of sequences to identify mitochondrial markers unique to the species.