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Bongo

Bongo

The Bongo is the most spectacular antelope to ever grace our biosphere. A native resident of African rainforests, it enthralls many with its blazing chestnut fur striped with vivid white, peeking through canopies as it makes silent moves in an elusive scheme.

There are two distinct Bongo antelope subspecies: the Lowland or Western Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus) and the Mountain or Eastern Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci).

Although picturesque, these antelopes are more than just a visual delight; they’re valuable players in rainforest biodiversity. Unfortunately, they experience significant conservation challenges that daunt their ecological importance.

Diet

Bongos are herbivorous browsers whose diets revolve around leaves, bushes, vines, bark, and fruits. They feed on higher vegetation, using their long prehensile tongues to grasp leaves and pull them into their mouths.

They supplement this diet with clay and minerals, which provide vital nutrients, especially for lactating females and growing calves. Baby Bongos rely exclusively on their mother’s milk in their initial stages but gradually start pecking at vegetation as they grow.

Habitat

African Bongo antelopes range in the dense forests of Africa. Lowland Bongos inhabit the rainforests of West and Central Africa – from the Congo Basin and Central African Republic to Sierra Leone. Mountain Bongos, on the other hand, are endemic to the montane forest ecosystems of Kenya.

These habitats are rife with dense vegetation which are crucial for Bongo survival as they offer all-year-round nourishment and refuge from predators.

Size and Weight

Bongos are among the largest forest antelopes. Adult males can weigh between 500 to 890 pounds, while females are slightly lighter, ranging from 400 to 550 pounds. Both males and females are similar in height, standing at about 3.5 to 4.3 feet tall at the shoulder. Their large size and striking horns, which can spiral up to 37 inches in males, make them one of the most eminent antelope species. Bongos grow from calves to adults fast, reaching their full size within the first few years of life.

Migration

Bongo antelopes are generally sedentary; they do not migrate over large distances. They, however, move within their home ranges to find food and water, especially during the dry season when resources are scarce. Human activities and habitat fragmentation have also influenced the migration of Bongos in recent years.

Conservation Status

The ecological status of the Bongo varies between the two subspecies. The Western Bongo is classified as Near Threatened while the Mountain Bongo antelope is Critically Endangered. Habitat destruction due to logging and agricultural expansion alongside other anthropogenic activities poses a major threat to the ecological integrity of the Bongos. Similarly, poaching and diseases transmitted by livestock are endangering Bongo antelope populations.

FAST FACTS

Bongos have a remarkable ability to remain hidden due to their nocturnal nature and aptitude to be active during twilight.

Despite their massive size, Bongos are incredibly agile and can move silently through dense underbrush.

Bongos often use mud wallows to coat their skin, which helps protect against insects and parasites.

The horns of male Bongos are used in dominance displays and can grow up to 37 inches long.

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