The beautiful Bongo is found near equatorial areas of Africa. It’s black and white stripes are stunning, and it’s reddish-brown coat is distinctive. Both sexes have long spiralled horns made of keratin (like human fingernails, but thicker). They live in dense undergrowth near lowland rainforests, in the Congo Basin, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Bongos are herbivores and eat grass, leaves, bark, herbs, vines, roots and fruit. Adults weight 500 to 900 pounds (225 to 410 kg). Female Bongos live in groups of up to 20 females and young. Males are solitary. Babies are born after about 9 ½ months, and reach maturity at about 2 years. Once born, bongos hide for a week or more, while mothers eat to sustain their milk. Young Bongo horns start to show at about 3 ½ months.
There are two subspecies of Bongo Forest Antelopes. The Eastern Bongo is critically endangered, particularly in the area of Mt. Kenya. There is not enough genetic diversity among the population to allow the Eastern variety to keep a healthy, stable population. Logging, hunting, poaching, and forest clear-cutting have endangered the subspecies, while Western Bongo could decline to Threatened in the near future.
There are conservation efforts being made in Africa, and the U.S., including the Bongo Rehabilitation Program run by the Mt. Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, and the Kenya Wildlife Service. The White Oak Conservation in Florida has also reared and re-introduced Eastern Bongos in Kenya. There are also over 200 Eastern Bongos in captivity in Europe, and the Middle East, due to the European Endangered Species Program. See the African Wildlife Foundation website.