Bongo Fact File
The bongo is a antelope with a spectacular chestnut coat which is marked with vertical white stripes. A white crescent of fur runs across the chest. White spots are present on the cheeks and white bands run around the legs. The belly is colored black.
Their coloration is thought to help them identify one another in the dark of the forest.
On top of the head both males and females have an impressive pair of horns. These are larger in the male and can reach a length of up to 95cm (37in) long. Bongo keep the same pair of horns their whole life unlike deer which shed their antlers each year.
A bongos horns are formed from keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.
As an ungulate each of their legs ends with a hoof.
Sitting on either side of the head are a pair of large ears.
At the end of the body is a tail measuring between 45 and 65cm (18-26in) long. This ends with a small black tuft.
Their body will measure between 1.7 and 2.5m (5.5-8.25ft) long with males being larger females. An average weight for this species is 210-405kg (460-890lbs). At the shoulder they stand 1.2m (4ft) tall.
The bongo is a herbivore which primarily browse for its food. Their diet includes leaves, flowers, twigs, thistles and cereal. Seasonally they may graze on grass.
They will consume wood which has become burnt after being struck by lightning. It is thought that this provides them with salts and minerals.
Their tongue is considered prehensile and can help them to grasp vegetation to feed on.
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Africa is the native home of the bongo. They are split in to three separate populations.
Their range covers the following countries – Benin; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Kenya; Liberia; Niger; Sierra Leone; South Sudan and Togo.
The bongo has gone extinct in Uganda.
These animals are among the most distinctive species of forest antelope. They make their home in rainforest, forest-savanna and disturbed forest.
Males and females will only seek out one another during the breeding season. This season tends to fall between October and January.
A single calf is born after the end of a 9 month gestation period. For the first week after birth the calf is hidden out of sight and receives a short visit from the parents to feed it.
Calves are fast growers and can quickly move around with their mothers herd.
Sexual maturity is reached around 2 years old.
Male bongos are primarily solitary. They tend to avoid one another outside of the breeding season. Females will move together in herds of up to 10 members.
If males come in contact with one another they will bulge their necks, roll their eyes and hold the horns up while pacing at one another.
The bongo is primarily nocturnal emerging between dawn and dusk to forage.
These animals make a wide range of vocalizations including a grunt, snort, bleat or moo.
When fleeing a predator the bongo will place its horns against its back and this can cause bald patches to form on the back.
Bongos are good jumpers but generally go around or under an obstacle.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the bongo include hyenas, leopards and lions. Young individuals may also be consumed by snakes.
Increasing populations of their predators has accelerated the decline in numbers of the bongo.
Humans are affecting the bongo through habitat destruction and hunting for meat. They are also sought after as a trophy.
Two subspecies of bongo are widely recognized. These are the mountain bongo and the eastern bongo.
If you touch a bongo following rain the red color will run off on to your hands.
Local people previously viewed it as taboo to feed on bongo meat. Unfortunately this has been unable to stop hunting of them. In some cultures there is a belief that touching or eating bongo will cause spasms.
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Joanne Merriam, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
Maksym Kozlenko, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Folly Farm. 2021. Bongo – Fun Facts & Information For Kids. [online] Available at: <https://www.folly-farm.co.uk/zoo/meet-the-zoo-animals/eastern-bongo/> [Accessed 14 April 2021].
Fossilrim.org. 2021. Mountain Bongo – Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. [online] Available at: <https://fossilrim.org/animals/mountain-bongo/> [Accessed 14 April 2021].
Altina Wildlife Park. 2021. Bongo Antelope – Altina Wildlife Park. [online] Available at: <http://www.altinawildlife.com/bongo-antelope/> [Accessed 14 April 2021].