Feeding Type: Herbivore
Statistics: Weight: 500-900 lbs; Height (at shoulder): 50 in Length: 67-98 in.
The bongo is the largest and heaviest forest antelope. Both sexes have spiraled lyre-shaped horns and large ears. It is a bright chestnut color with 12 to 14 narrow white stripes on the shoulders, flanks, and hindquarters. It also has a black and white crest of hair running the length of its back. Its face narrows to the nose and has a white chevron between its eyes and two large white spots on each cheek.
West Zaire to southern Sudan with small populations in Kenya and Congo.
It is believed that the bongo’s large ears help it hear very soft sounds while hiding deep in the forest. The bongo has a prehensile tongue, which allows it to grasp plant materials with ease. Although it is generally nocturnal, it is occasionally active during the day. The bongo is timid and will move away quickly when frightened , and can run through the forest at considerable speed, even in dense undergrowth. Once it feels safe, it will stand very still facing away from the disturbance. Since the bongo’s hindquarters are less conspicuous than its forequarters it can stay hidden and flee quickly if needed. Although it is a good jumper, it prefers to go under branches and fences instead of over.
Bongos are the only forest antelope that live in herds and travel in small family groups dominated by one male. When in distress, the bongo emits a bleat. It uses a limited number of vocalizations, mostly grunts and snorts. The female also has a weak, mooing contact call for its young.
Females give birth to a single calf, after a gestation period of 282 to 285 days, and prefer to use traditional calving grounds. Newborns are up and running within an hour after birth but may hide for a week or more, receiving short visits by the mother to suckle. The calves grow rapidly and can soon accompany their mothers in the nursery herds. Horns also grow rapidly and begin to show in three and a half months. Both males and females will reach maturity somewhere around two and a half years.
Young males leave maternal groups as they mature and try to form their own harems. Younger mature males often remain solitary, although they sometimes join up with an older male. Adult males of similar size or age seem to avoid one another, but occasionally meet and duel with their horns. Occasionally serious fights take place, but are usually discouraged by visual displays such as neck bulging, eye rolling and holding their horns in a vertical position while slowly pacing back and forth. When males develop a harem, they do not coerce the females or try to restrict their movements as some other antelope.
Captivity: Up to 19.5 years
Prey to humans, hyenas, leopards
Predator to none
Varied plant materials including bamboo
SCZ: Five cups ADF (herbivore diet) and a mix of fruits and vegetables like iceberg lettuce, apple, celery, carrot, and sweet potato.
Listed as CITES Appendix III. The current wild status of the bongo is unknown due to its secretive nature. Much of what is known about it comes from studying captive animals or setting up observation blinds at salt-licks on the edge of forests. On the IUCN Red List they are considered to be Lower Risk-Near Threatened due to loss of habitat and hunting.
- Characterized by huge curving horns, which both the males and females have, and a dramatically striped hide, bongos have long been sought by hunters and poachers as a prize trophy animal.
- Once plentiful in the wild, the East African bongo has been virtually exterminated from its home range in Kenya.
1. African Wildlife Foundation - Bongo http://www.awf.org/wildlives/63
2. Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Volume I. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
3. Antelope Specialist Group 1996. Tragelaphus eurycerus. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 July 2008.