Photo of the Month: Mountain Bongo

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Mountain Bongo; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: The mountain (or eastern) bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci) is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) primarily due to poaching and habitat loss as human settlement and logging expand. Fewer than 100 individuals survive in severely fragmented habitat in Kenya.

Habitat: These forest antelope prefer tropical jungles with dense undergrowth for browsing. While lowland (or western) bongos can be found in the coastal rainforests of West Africa and the Congo Basin, mountain bongos live in only four small areas in the Aberdares Range forests and on Mt. Kenya.

Diet: Bongos are browsers; they eat the leaves and shoots of shrubs and trees. They have also been seen eating the wood from burned trees, possibly to obtain salt. These animals are ruminants with four-chambered stomachs, which means they chew cud in the same way as cows.

Adult bongos stand around four and a half feet tall at the shoulder; males weigh up to 850 pounds, and females average around 500 pounds. It is one of the few antelope species in which both sexes bear similar large horns, which can grow up to 40 inches in length.

Bongos rely on their sense of hearing more than their eyesight in the thick forests where they live; as such, they have particularly large ears. Calves are born with ears that measure six inches in length!

A male mountain bongo was born on January 20 to five-year-old mother Rizzo and seven-year-old father Asa. He is a large baby, standing just under two feet tall and weighing 55 pounds at birth. His horns will start growing in by his first birthday.

The calf is the first bongo born at the Zoo since 1995 and continues the Zoo’s long, successful history with the species. He can be seen on exhibit with the rest of the herd and two yellow-backed duikers, between the gerenuk and orangutan habitats.