Bongo Beauty

Lisa G. Putman

Joined November 2007

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The Bongo, or broad-horned antelope, Boocercus eurycerus, is one of Africa’s most elusive animals. Keeping close to the jungle, it never shows itself in the open. The bongo is about four feet high at the shoulder.

It is a rich chestnut color with ten to fifteen white-yellow vertical torso stripes on the sides of the body. Bulls grow darker with age and become black about the head and neck. Both sexes have massive lyre-shaped horns that spiral in one complete twist, but the female’s are not as large as the male’s.

The bongo is the only Tragelaphid in which both the male and female have horns. Among the various species of antelope in the African Equatorial forrest, Bongos are the largest. They are the only forest antelope to form herds. Bongos are extremely shy, making accurate population estimation difficult. Specifically they are found in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan, but are extremely rare.

Due to the extreme elusiveness of the species, the bulk of information gathered on the Bongo Antelope typically comes from studies requiring captivity . It is known, however, that the Bongo must inhabit close to dense vegetation. Because of this dependency on thick vegetation, destruction of the Bongo habitat is an increasing threat.

The Bongo has a highly advanced social organization. Males tend to be partially solitary, however, females and juveniles typically coexist. Dominance behavior can be observed in multi-male interactions. They possess a wide range of vocalizations. Bongos snort, grunt, moo, and bellow out a “bleat-like” alarm call.

Bongos have a prehensile tongue, making for a helpful feeding apparatus. They also are known to feed on wood that has been burned after lightning storms. This unique behavior may indicate that the Bongo uses the burned wood as a source of salt or minerals.

After birth, calves are temporarily abandoned in the undergrowth by the mother. This may be a protective tactic for the vulnerable calf to avoid predators. Not to worry, the mother returnes periodically to nurse.

Bongos have been observed to hold their horns on the back of the neck when fleeing. This suggests that they are probably preventing getting entangled in the surrounding vegetation. As a result, bare patches of fur are visible on the backs of older Bongos.

Bongos are the only forest antelope that gathers in herds (of about 20 animals). They are fast runners who can also jump very well, but they often go around or under obstacles in the forest. These shy antelopes like to wallow in mud. They are mostly nocturnal.

We are not sure of there numbers in the wild, but they are very rare. They can be found in many zoological parks and reserves throughout the United States and the rest of the world, including Ivindo National Park, located in east-central Gabon, Africa and Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic The United States has many programs to re-populate bongos into the wild, including Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom supported by the American Association of Zoological Parks (Bongo SSP). They have been spotted in the wild in The Congo but they are very rare.

The Bongo is classified as Lower Risk (Near Threatened) by IUCN, and listed as endangered in Ghana, the bongo is at risk of extinction in parts of its range and its population trend is decreasing. The principal threats to the bongo are hunting and habitat loss, and it is Integrally Protected in the Republic of Congo.

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Artwork Comments

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