08-05-2022 by Leni Frau
Mount Kenya animal rights activists are calling on all residents and environmental groups to defend the extremely rare mountain bongo, a type of antelope now found only in the Nanyuki Plains on the slopes of the country's highest and most famous mountain.
Tragelaphus eurycerus, the most mountainous subspecies of the bongo, is now almost extinct in Africa and in Kenya there are no more than a hundred left in the wild.
At the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, where the mountain bongo come to feed, efforts are underway to increase this number. The conservancy also provides them with care and vaccinations they need to have greater strength to reproduce.
The bongo is distinguished by a reddish-brown coat with black, white and yellow-white markings. Both males and females have long, slightly coiled horns. Bongos are rarely found in large herds. Males are mostly solitary, while females with young form small herds of up to 10 individuals. They are mostly nocturnal animals.
"We are focusing on the mountain bongo simply because these species before the 1950s were abundant in this area, both in the Mount Kenya mountain range and also in the Aberdare forests," explains Robert Aruho, director of the Conservancy, "but slowly they began to undergo a very steady decline, and this was largely attributed to poaching, because the bongo is a very large animal, so you can get a lot of meat from it, as well as pelts. The bongo has also been in great demand for export, and another cause of the decrease in the number of animals is climate change." Another major damage is caused by deforestation, which is also becoming a factor in Nanyuki's disorientation of the animals. With forests in the highlands of the Laikipia region rapidly disappearing due to illegal logging and a growing population, the bongo's habitat is also shrinking.
Some bongos in years past have been taken to zoos overseas, and now part of the effort to save the animals has focused on returning them to Kenya. As many as 18 bongos have been found in the United States, and all have been returned to their home territory of Kenya. Others will hopefully follow.
"The last national wildlife census verified that there are less than 96 bongos left in the wild," says Aruho, "this is very alarming because if you put it in perspective, the rhinos we have are almost 80 times the number of bongos we have here.
In an effort to promote the recovery of the species in the wild, the Kenya Wildlife Service, in partnership with Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, has established the Mawingu Bongo Sanctuary, which will be an integral part of the national "National Mountain Bongo Recovery" plan.
The sanctuary is an 800-acre area of native forest located on the slopes of Mount Kenya.
As of last March, 63 mountain bongos are protected in the sanctuary.
by Leni Frau
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