National Bongo Task Force Meeting July 2010

August 7th, 2010 ... by IBF

National Bongo Task Force

Meeting July, 22, 2010

KWS Headquarters, Nyeri, Kenya

The National Bongo Task Force (BTF) regrouped for another meeting on July 22 at the KWS Aberdare Headquarters in Nyeri, Kenya.  In addition to Official Task Force members, Dr. Jake Veasey, Behaviorist and EEP Coordinator for Bongo, from Woburn Safari Park attended this meeting along with Dr Jamie Ivy, Population Biologist/Geneticist, Zoological Society of San Diego and Dr. Tom deMaar, Veterinarian, Gladys Porter Zoo.

After adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting in March, discussions that took place at this meeting were related to questions raised at the Task Force meeting in March, 2010 held at the William Holden Wildlife Education Center (WHWF) in Nanyuki, Kenya.  These questions were related to genetic issues of the remaining wild bongo and the captive population at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) and an issue raised by Dr. Jake Veasey, regarding his belief there was a bongo wasting condition in the captive population in American.  Dr. deMaar, having reviewed medical reports that had been submitted to the International Bongo Studbook, addressed the speculation about a bongo wasting disease.  There was no specific diagnosis of a wasting disease in captive bongo, only conditions showing wasting of animals related to other causes of illness.  Wasting of body condition in any animal with severe medical conditions is common due to anorexia and other organ malfunction or compromise of other organs or body functions related to the primary condition and is not to be confused as a wasting disease such as found in a chronic wasting disease (CWD) associated with some white tailed deer in North America.

Paul Reillo, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, also participated for part of the meeting via a telephone conference call from the United States.  Paul revealed news that Dr. George Amato, American Museum, offered to process the fecal samples and identify the genetic markers at no cost.  Information and conclusions gathered from the process would be made fully available to all parties involved.  This was good news and should help the project move forward.

Mike Prettejohn presented an update on work by the Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP)  on bongo tracking in Aberdares, Mount Kenya, Mau and Eburru.  In Aberdares, 22 individual bongos have been camera trapped and thus identified by markings.  Estimates made by BSP for wild bongo remaining in Kenya are as follows:

Aberdares 50

Mt. Kenya 15 (2 on camera traps)

Mau 30

Eburru 8

Total estimates for wild bongo in Kenya:  103

Mike Prettejohn added that the numbers for Mau are speculative and the other numbers are most likely high as well.

Dr. deMaar addressed the group, saying that we should not be misled to think the bongo in Kenya, though islands of bongo now, are different from one another.  They are all Eastern (Mountain) bongo.  Some longtime Kenya residents have pointed out that up until the last 60 years, there was a forested region between the Aberdares and Mount Kenya through the hills and valleys that run through Nyeri and lead to Mount Kenya.  The Aberdares and Mount Kenya  populations could indeed have intermingled until recently.  Even today, one can see patches of forest intermingled with the agriculture in these hills and valleys.

Some other discussions gathered around genetic issues presented by Jake Veasey related to a future release of bongo from MKWC on to Mount Kenya, should a small population of bongo remain on Mount Kenya.  Two bongos have reportedly been photographed via camera traps by the Bongo Surveillance Program (BSP), though these photos have not been revealed.  BSP has estimated from tracks that 15 bongo may remain on Mt. Kenya.  Dr. Veasey has speculated that any release of captive bongo could some how jeopardize the genetics of these remaining bongos.  Dr. Ivy spoke regarding this issue and offered expertise that a small population such as 15 animals would not be self sustaining due to inbreeding and demographics and would benefit from supplementation from the captive herd and not be jeopardized.

Patrick Omondi, KWS and facilitator of this Task Force meeting, stated we would agree to the proposed offer by Dr. George Amato and the American Museum to process the fecal samples and produce the genetic markers for bongo.  According to Paul Reillo during his telephone presentation, the genetic testing could be completed in 6 months time.  Mr. Omondi continued that we would hold on the release of the bongo onto Mt. Kenya until the genetic testing was complete and would build a release boma fence to contain any released bongo at Mwingo. He then stated that if the testing came back that no problem existed “we would take down the fence”.

The remaining discussion was related to the upcoming workshop for the development of a National Conservation Strategy for Bongo in Kenya, which was to take place at the Green Hills Hotel in Nyeri, Kenya on July 26, 27 and 28.

Mount Kenya Bongo Project Update

April 17th, 2010 ... by IBF

A two-year drought ended a few months ago in Kenya with some much need rainfall. To further aid the drought relief, the long rains have now begun in the Mount Kenya and Laikipia District. Things are going well with the Bongo herd at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC). The health of the heard is good and reproduction continues with the herd now numbering 60-plus animals. A number of animals have been living in the forest sanctuary for the last two years and are well-acclimated to the forest terrain, foraging on creepers in the glades from dusk to dawn, and have regained some natural fear of man. These animals were recently scheduled for release onto Mount Kenya following meetings with Kenya Wildlife Service.

Preparations for the release involved cutting a 5-kilometer road through the bush up the mountain to a release site and digging a pit for offloading the animals. This road would allow for the transport of the crated bongo up the mountain via lorries and trailers. Satellite transmitters for post-release monitoring of the animals were in place and ready to be activated. Unfortunately the release was postponed by KWS just two days prior to the release in response to questions raised during a meeting of the National Bongo Task Force at the William Holden Wildlife Education Center. The animals that were ready for release have been returned to the forest sanctuary.

Meanwhile, with the bongo herd going at MKWC, breeding recommendations to maximize the available genetics have been prepared, utilizing the PM2000 program, and plans are being made to increase the facilities to handle up to 100 bongo. This expansion of facilities is currently being funded by Don and Iris Hunt of the MKWC. Additional funds to assist with the expansion would be greatly appreciated and can be sent directly to MKWC or to the International Bongo Foundation.

New satellite transmitter is ready.

January 12th, 2010 ... by IBF

The new bongo satellite transmitters have been acquired.  The new design has a very substantial antenna and will mount on the backside of the bongo’s horn.  This will be a great improvement over the first transmitter which became inoperable after the antenna failed.

 Meanwhile, the bongo herd at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy has grown to over 60 animals and continues to increase. 

New Developments for Tracking Bongo!

December 5th, 2008 ... by IBF

If you have visited the gallery section you will have seen some photos of our initial trial of a satellite transmitter or PTT installed on a male bongo last year. Using satellite transmitters on wildlife is not new to wildlife conservation management. However, the method in which we attach the transmitter to a bongo is much different. Typically transmitters have been attached to land dwelling animals by the use of a collar. This type of equipment could be problematic for the forest dwelling bongo. The forest is very dense with brush, vines and other vegetation which could become entangled in the collar around the bongo’s neck. Bongo antelope also enjoy using their horns to pull and manipulate the bush and dig in the earth. For this reason we tested our first transmitter by attaching it to the horn of the bongo with fiberglass casting material. Unfortunately the shape of the transmitter housing only allowed for the attachment to be on the frontal surface of the horn. Consequently, after three months, the bongo damaged the antenna of the transmitter by digging in the earth. But during this three month period the satellite transmitter performed well, passing vital location information to the satellite daily.

We are currently developing a new housing for the transmitter (PTT) that is molded to the rear surface of the bongo horn. This will allow for a stable attachment of the PTT to the horn and provide protection from contact with the earth and other elements of the forest. The antenna will also be modified to position the antenna for optimal transmission and will be constructed of a more rigorous material. The data transmitted by the PTT to the satellite is received daily and can be viewed on the computer using the google earth program.

A Bongo Kaleidoscope – as observed by Lilli

June 7th, 2008 ... by IBF

10 May 2008 – Ajabu’s big day. In the lush surroundings of her beautiful forest home at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, she has chosen this day for the arrival of her firstborn.

Nature sees to it that, instinctively, mother and young will always find each other but how do we, their human caretakers, tell them apart, you might ask? Is it their horns – beautifully long or sometimes not yet visible? Does their coat set them apart – a whole palette of an enthusiastic painter? Do the stripes give them away? Well, it is a combination of these features that give every one of our protégées their unique identity.

Our Wildlife Officer Fundi has opened the family album for you promising to make you a Bongo expert.

STRIPES
Bongo have between 8 to 14 vertical white stripes on either side. The Bongo in the picture seem to look identical. However, the keen observer may have spotted 12 stripes on the right bongo and only 11 on the left, an important clue…. but how do we distinguish bongo with the same number of stripes? Have you noticed that the first stripe on the right bongo is barely visible whilst the second and third stripe on the left bongo cross half way? There you are!

HORNS
All bongo grow ivory tipped horns that may reach up to 40 inches. In young bongo, these are not yet visible and only develop with age. Let’s look at the pictures. The horns twist at the same angle but do you notice the difference? Well spotted, the horns of the bongo on the left almost seem to touch whilst the horns on the right bongo leave a wide gap. Perhaps, as the horns grow, these too will touch one day but as with all features, no set of horns is alike. Of course once you know your bongo family, you can easily recognize them from their facial features as well – just see how different these two are!

COLOR
Ranging from the lightest chestnut to the deepest russet, bongo are easily identifiable by their brilliant coat darkening with age in males. An artist’s dream, the color nuances are seemingly endless. Do you notice the color of the young bongo on the right being much lighter than that of her mother on the left? When fully grown, the size may no longer be an indicator. The different shades of brown will forever be a “telltale.”

SIZE
The largest of the forest antelopes, the average bongo weighs up to 400 kilos and reaches a height of up to 4 feet. Couldn’t the two adorable bongo toddlers in the picture be twins – their coats almost identical? Their stripes? Hard to count, aren’t they? If it wasn’t for their different build no one could tell that the Bongo on the left is 4 months older than its cousin. There you are, another hint!

Now that you have mastered the art of telling our bongo family apart, we’ll let you in on a little secret: Ajabu’s girl may darken in colour, she will grow magnificent horns, but she will always carry the name she is waiting for you to give her.

Become one of the privileged few to give the offspring of this rare antelope family a name registered in the International Bongo Studbook and be part of her incredible journey through photos and regular updates?

Are you ready to name “your” girl? This link will make you her guardian angel:

adoption.animalorphanagekenya.org

For more news on our very successful Bongo Repatriation Program visit this link: bongo.animalorphanagekenya.org or this blog for regular updates.

Bongos Out & About

May 5th, 2008 ... by IBF

These are some of the latest youngsters born to the resident herd of Bongo bred at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.

Only separated by a few months in age, these young animals have formed a friendship that will last for life.

As seen here, only one “teenage” female is “in charge.” While the mothers browse in relative peace nearby, the young play and romp as they should. Only previously seen in eland and impala, it is amazing that bongo will adopt the same (sensible) system. Because of the impenetrable forest that wild bongo once populated on Mount Kenya, very little of their behaviour was known until they could be studied in their semi-wild environment of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.

Bongo bred at the Conservancy are earmarked for future release on Mount Kenya their ancestral home. Watch this space for updates.

If you would like to become part of this exiting and unique conservation project with your donation, click here:

Help support the Wildlife Conservancy

It’s a bongo baby boom!

April 27th, 2008 ... by Mt. Kenya Wildlife Conservancy

Barely two weeks after the grand entrance of Bongo baby No. 50, here now is No. 51!! He was born to “Wasi-wasi” which, loosely translated means crazy (as in nervous). That is indeed the reason why I don’t yet have a decent picture of the cute little baby antelope, I didn’t dare risk Wasi -wasi to disembowel me with her horns. Bongo, normally quite calm and shy can also be very dangerous. Wasi-wasi especially is quite capable to stand there like a tame animal one moment and attack the next if she were to perceive danger for her young. It is this quality that will ultimately insure their survival in the wild we hope.
Newborn baby bongo at Mt. Kenya
In any case congratulations are due: Wasi-wasi presented us with a beautiful little male. Here’s your chance to name and adopt!! Just contact the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy.
Meanwhile the new baby and mother have joined Hamsini and her mother in the suni sanctuary. We are sure the two little ones will become buddies for life, – a life that will eventually see them roaming free in the wilderness of Mount Kenya.

Welcome!

April 19th, 2008 ... by IBF

Welcome to the new blog at the new web site of the International Bongo Foundation. We intend to bring you news here both from the IBF office in Ft. Worth and from Mt. Kenya where the repatriation project is underway. Remember to subscribe to the mailing list to receive occasional updates.