With just approximately 100 left in the wild in Kenya, the Mountain Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isacci) is critically endangered, a species facing an extremely high risk of extinction.
The largest of the forest antelopes (growing up to 900 lbs), the Mountain Bongo, is a spectacular sight: stocky with a beautiful red and chestnut glossy coat, narrow white stripes begin from the shoulders and continues to the hindquarters, often an off-white band runs between the mammals big eyes, a crest of hair runs the length of the spine, and a pair of spiraled horns extend towards the back.
The graceful animal is shy and reclusive, and only lives in a few pockets of highland forests in Kenya – Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, and Mau Forest.
Why is the Mountain Bongo Endangered?
According to Kenya Wildlife Service, the Mountain Bongo is the most threatened antelope species in Kenya and “possibly the most endangered large mammal south of the Sahara.”
Population in the wild has plummeted in the past 50 years primarily due to unrestricted hunting, poaching, loss of habitat, illegal logging in forests and diseases with the rinderpest drastically reducing populations in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Is the Mountain Bongo Doomed?
With only approximately 100 Mountain Bongos left in the wild, the species is under greater threat than even the Black Rhino, which currently has a population of more than 5,000.
61 Mountain Bongos are in captivity and participate in a breeding program. In 2004, 13 zoos and conservation organizations in the U.S. partnered with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and others in Kenya in an effort to begin repopulating the critically endangered antelope. Eighteen captive-bred bongos were flown to Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, where they live and breed in a protected environment.
According to Donald Bunge of Mount Kenya Game Ranch, a minimum of 250 breeding adults are required before the population of the Mountain Bongo can be considered healthy by scientists.
“We’re currently proposing a 10km2 sanctuary to Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest and if it’s accepted, with the current breeding success, we could replenish the Mountain Bongo population to 250 in 5 years.”
Recent breeding success in Mountain Bongo conservation is inspiring, with 8 Mountain Bongos being born at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy in 2015, but a lot of work remains to secure the population and ensure that it stays there.
How You Can Help
The proposed concession of up to 10 by 10km land in the forest is vital to the future progress of the Mountain Bongo re-population program. It is estimated that the protective fence with cost KSh100 million.
If you would like to get involved, here’s how.