Bongo Calf – Tragelaphus Eurycerus
Bongos are characterised by a striking reddish-brown coat, black and white markings, white-yellow stripes and long slightly spiralled horns. Indeed, bongos are the only tragelaphid in which both sexes have horns. They have a complex social interaction and are found in African dense forest mosaics.
The eastern or mountain bongo, T. e. isaaci, of Kenya, has a coat even more vibrant than that of T. e. eurycerus. The mountain bongo is only found in the wild in one remote region of central Kenya. This bongo is classified by the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group as Critically Endangered, with more specimens in captivity than in the wild.
In 2000, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the USA (AZA) upgraded the bongo to a Species Survival Plan participant and in 2006 added the Bongo Restoration to Mount Kenya Project to its list of the Top Ten Wildlife Conservation Success Stories of the year. However, in 2013, it seems, these successes have been negated with reports of possibly only 100 mountain bongos left in the wild due to logging and poaching.
The bongo belongs to the genus Tragelaphus, which includes the sitatunga (T. spekeii), the nyala (T. angasii), the bushbuck (T. scriptus), the mountain nyala (T. buxtoni), the lesser kudu (T. imberbis), and the greater kudu (T. strepsiceros).
Bongos are further classified into two subspecies: T. e. eurycerus, the lowland or western bongo, and the far rarer T. e. isaaci, the mountain or eastern bongo, restricted to the mountains of Kenya only. The eastern bongo is larger and heavier than the western bongo. Two other subspecies are described from West and Central Africa, but taxonomic clarification is required. They have been observed to live up to 19 years.
The generic name Tragelaphus is derived from the Greek words trago (a male goat) and elaphos (a deer), in combination referring to “an antelope”. The specific name eurycerus originated from the fusion of eurus (broad, widespread) and keras (an animal’s horn). “Bongo” is derived from a West African native name.
Distribution and habitat
Bongos are found in tropical jungles with dense undergrowth up to an altitude of 4,000 meters (12,800 ft) in Central Africa, with isolated populations in Kenya, and these West African countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan.
Historically, bongos are found in three disjunct parts of Africa: East, Central and West. Today, all three populations’ ranges have shrunk in size due to habitat loss for agriculture and uncontrolled timber cutting, as well as hunting for meat.
Bongos favour disturbed forest mosaics that provide fresh, low-level green vegetation. Such habitats may be promoted by heavy browsing by elephants, fires, flooding, tree-felling (natural or by logging), and fallowing. Mass bamboo die-off provides ideal habitat in East Africa. They can live in bamboo forests.
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