Status Critically Endangered
Size Head-body: 220-235 cm; shoulder height: 122-128 cm
Weight Males: 240-405 kg; females: 210-253 kg
Gestation 9 months
Life span Up to 21 years
Mountain bongos are both browsers and grazers, eating a variety of leaves, shoots and grasses. They sometimes reach leaves by using their horns to twist and break the branches of trees and shrubs. Bongos will eat mineral-rich soil and drink muddy water at mineral licks, which are often created by elephants.
These bongos are currently only found in four completely separate populations in Kenya, where they live in montane forests in the highlands. They prefer areas of forest with tall shrubs, such as forest edges or areas where the forest has been disturbed and new growth is occurring.
Mountain bongo calves are left hidden in vegetation by their mothers after birth to conceal them from predators. The mothers return to the calves to suckle them. Calves are weaned by about 6 months of age. The young look similar to adults but are paler in colour.
Leopards are the main predators of bongos. If bongos feel threatened, they will run into the forest with their horns held against the back of their neck so they don’t get snagged in the undergrowth.
Mountain bongos face a number of threats, including from hunting with dogs and loss of habitat due to illegal logging. They are also threatened by diseases from domestic cattle, which can pass to the bongo.
A number of measures have been put in place to conserve mountain bongo. In 2004, 18 bongos from North America were moved into a captive breeding facility in Kenya. In addition, a research program and Bongo Surveillance Program were set up to provide more information about the bongos and their habitats.
Male and female bongos are the same chestnut-red colour, but as male bongos get older their colour gets darker, and as females get older they may become paler.
The white stripes on the bongos’ sides are thought to provide them with camouflage in the forest, as they look like the pattern of sunlight and shadow seen on the understorey and forest floor.
Bongos are largely nocturnal, with their main bouts of activity at dawn and dusk. They rest in cover during the day from about 10.30 to 16.30.
Bongos are a sociable species and groups of up to 50 are sometimes seen at mineral licks, though groups are usually of 2 to 8 individuals.
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