Bongo Antelope

Bongo Antelope

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: bongo antelope
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Bovidae
GENUS SPECIES: Tragelaphus (antelope) eurycerus (eurus - broad, widespread;keras - the horn of a animal)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Large colorful antelope with large ears, bright chestnut to dark brown with vivid white-yellow markings and stripes; spiral-horned antelope
SIZE: 110-130 cm (44-54 in)
MALE Males slightly larger than females
WEIGHT:
MALE 240-405 kg (528-891 lbs)
FEMALE 210-253 kg (462-557 lbs)
DIET: Browsers; eat leaves, flowers, twigs, thistles, garden produce and cereals
GESTATION: Approximately 285 days (9.5 months)
SEXUAL MATURITY: 24-27 months
LIFE SPAN: Up to 19 years observed in zoos; unknown in the natural environment
RANGE: Central Africa
HABITAT: Lowland and montane (mountain) forests
POPULATION: GLOBAL No data
STATUS: IUCN Near threatened
CITES Appendix III
USFWS Not listed
  AZA SSP-Participant

FUN FACTS

1. Bongos are the largest forest antelope.
2. Native people believe if they eat or touch bongo they will have spasms similar to epileptic seizures. Because of this superstition, bongos have been relatively unharmed in their native ranges.
3. Population counts are sketchy as these are very secretive animals. Even researchers who study these antelope often do not see them. Much of what is known about them comes from captive animals and studies at salt licks on the edge of forests.
4. They have been known to eat burned wood after lightning storms. This behavior is believed to be a means of getting salt or minerals.
5. Bongos are great high jumpers but prefer to go under or around obstacles.
6. Bongos use their prehensile tongue to grasp the vegetation they feed on.
7. In order to swiftly maneuver through the dense forest vegetation, bongos tilt their chin up, causing their horns to lie flat against their back. They take this position so frequently older bongos often have bald spots on their back from the tips of their horns rubbing away the fur.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

The ecological importance of bongos is not fully understood. Since they are so secretive, scientists often find it difficult to gather data on them. As browsers they are important to the habitats they live in by keeping vegetation from becoming overgrown. They also serve as prey items for leopards and sometimes hyenas. Since these animals are so dependent on dense vegetation, habitat destruction is their greatest threat.

Busch Gardens continues support of the Bongo Antelope Field Study directed by Paul Elkan in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Africa's northern Congo. Nouabale-Ndoki, one of the least disturbed forests remaining in tropical Africa, offers a wealth of research opportunities on dozens of species. Among the most critical of those species is the bongo, which was only discovered by modern biologists in the 1950s. In the 40 years since this fascinating species' discovery, researchers have raced against time collecting data to better understand its biology and habitat needs.

Busch Gardens' zookeepers contribute to the study by monitoring the park's herd and sharing data with field scientists in Africa via the Internet. Long-term observations by Busch Gardens' zoo keepers significantly contributed to the design of a chart used to forecast the age and weight of this species based on the length and twists of their horns and size and shape of their bodies. Project Director Paul Elkin recently visited Busch Gardens to assist zookeepers in conducting infrared tests to better observe this elusive species at night. Busch Gardens is in the process of designing a program to send a zookeeper working with the park's herd in Africa to participate in the Nouabale-Ndoki field study.

In a cooperative effort with other AZA (American Association of Zoos and Aquariums) institutions, Busch Gardens closely manages bongo populations through a program called the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which works to improve the genetic diversity of managed animal populations. Busch Gardens currently has 30 SSP animals.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Estes, Richard D. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press., 1991.

Estes, Richard. The Safari Companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1993.

Kingdon, Jonathan. East African Mammals Vol. IIIC. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press., 1982.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World Fifth Ed. Vol. II. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press., 1991.

Spinage, C.A. The Natural History of Antelopes. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1986.