Photo by Kori Odum, Mammal Keeper
Help us welcome the newest residents to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Two eastern bongo females were born in the last two months: one on December 17 and the other on January 8. Both calves are fathered by our one male, Mickey. All our bongos are first-time parents and have done a wonderful job caring for their growing family. You can see our new additions to the Zoo along the Africa loop.
Eastern bongos are the largest rain forest antelope in the dense forests of tropical Africa. They’re the only spiral-horned antelope in which both sexes have horns. Unlike antlers, horns are never shed and continue to grow throughout the bongo’s life—sometimes up to three feet! Bongos can easily maneuver around obstacles by lifting their chins up to lie their horns flat against their backs, since they would rather go under or around an object than jump over it. Our calves do not have horns yet, but be on the lookout as they continue to grow. Their horns should begin to start showing as they wean off their mother’s milk.
Eastern bongos have a chestnut brown color with 12-14 vertical white stripes on their body. As males grow older, their chestnut brown will begin to darken and appear almost black with vertical white stripes. Our adult bongos are still young so it may be hard to differentiate them.
Eastern bongos communicate with each other through a variety of sounds, such as grunts, snorts, mooing, and a bleat-like alarm call. You may start to see this more as the two calves start playing and integrating themselves into the herd.
Eastern bongos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are an estimated 47-140 bongos left in their natural habitat. The eastern bongos decline is due to habitat loss by humans. Since they live in dense forests, commercial logging has taken its toll on their population. Their ivory-tipped horns also make bongos susceptible to poaching and hunting by tourist safaris.
You can help make a difference by spreading the word about bongo conservation and supporting conservation organizations, like the Bongo Surveillance Program, African Wildlife Foundation, and International Bongo Foundation. In the meantime, we’re proud to have helped increase the population with these two calves and hope to continue adding to the eastern bongo population in the future.