Are you ready to discover one of Africa’s most interesting wildlife species? Then board a plane to East Africa where you will encounter the incredible Bongo antelopes during your safari.
The Bongo are the largest antelope species within the dense jungles of East, west and Central Africa with thick undergrowth up to elevation of 4000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level with isolated populations being Kenya and a number Central and west African countries such as Congo Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, South Sudan and Liberia. Therefore, it is clear that Bongos are found within three distinctive parts of the African Continent that include West, Central and East but their numbers have tremendously reduced due to habitat loss for settlement and agricultural as well as uncontrolled timber cutting as not forgetting hunting/poaching for meat.
They are known as the largest forest-dwelling antelopes characterized by their chestnut-colored coats and long spiral horns in males that measure 90 centimeters long and are scientifically known as Tragelaphus eurycerus. These mammals prefer disturbed forest Mosaics that provide them with fresh low-level green vegetation, and these may be promoted by the heavy browsing by elephants, bush fires, flooding, lumbering and bush fallowing.
Bongos are herbivorous and nocturnal ungulates with striking reddish-brown color as well as black and white markings, white-yellow stripes and long slightly spiraled horns. Surprisingly, they are the only Tragelaphid in which both sexes have horns. These antelopes have complex social interaction and inhabit the African thick forest mosaics.
Bongos are made up of two sub-species that include the eastern or mountain Bongo (T.e. isaaci) found within Kenya and are identified with vibrant coats than their counterparts. These only stay in the wild within one remote region of Central Kenya and classified under IUCN’s List of Critically endangered although some of them are found in captivity.
The other species are the western or lowland bongo (scientifically known as T.e. eurycerus) classified under IUCN’s List of near Threatened due to their ongoing population decline. Eastern Bongos are darker in color than the western and this is very evident within the older males which tend to be chestnut brown especially on the foreparts of their bodies.
Unlike most antelopes, adult Bongos of both sexes have similar heights and sizes with an adult shoulder height of 1.1 to 1.3 meters (3.6 to 4.3 feet) and length of 2.15 to 3.15 meters (7.1 to 10.3 feet) including their tails that measure 45 to 65 centimeters (18 to 26 inches). However, females usually weigh from 150 to 235 kilograms (331 to 518 pounds) whereas the males weigh from 220 to 405 kilograms (485 to 893 pounds). Their massive bodies and heavy weight make them the third largest within the Bovidae tribe of Strepsicerotini, after both greater and common elands by around 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and above the greater Kudu by around 40 kilograms (88 pounds).
Bongos reach sexual maturity at 24 to 27 months and their gestation period is around 9.5 months (285 days) whereby a single young one is born and weaned at 6 months.
Additionally, both male and female Bongos have heavy spiral horns with the ones of males being longer and bigger. All those that live in captivity are from the isolated Aberdare Mountains of Central Kenya. Coats of female Bongos are normally more brightly colored than those of the males.
Unlike other Forest ungulates, Bongos are rarely seen in large groups. The males (bulls) are always solitary while the females with their young ones live in groups of 6 to 8 individuals.
Much as are usually nocturnal, Bongos are sometimes active during the day but like the deer, they show crepuscular behavior. They are both easily frightened and timid whereby after being frightened, they move away at a fast speed and face away from the disturbance but will peek every now and then to check the situation.
They are herbivorous browsers and feed on vines, leaves, bushes, bark and pith of rotting trees, roots, fruits, grasses and cereals. They always need salt in their diets thus the reason they regularly visit salt licks. These antelopes are vulnerable to diseases like rinderpest that almost eliminated these species in the 1980s. Their natural predators are hyenas, leopards, pythons and lions but their populations have been reduced by poaching (animal trapping) and hunting.