Found in forests from Sierra Leone to Kenya, the bongo is a strikingly beautiful hoofed animal. From the white strips running down its chestnut red sides to those unbelievable spiral horns, this mammal is a knock-out. Even those big ears are charming.
Bongo are primarily nocturnal and will rest in covered areas during daylight. That beautiful striped coat aids with camouflage in the undergrowth and shadows of the forest. Those big ears provide an excellent sense of hearing and when startled the bongo can quickly disappear.
It seems incongruent that such a large hoofed animal should live in a forest, but the bongo can run gracefully through the forest. By laying its horns on its back, the tangles of the forest do not impede its flight. An older bongo may actually have bare spots rubbed on its back where the horn tips rest. And, believe it or not, a bongo only needs about 2½ feet of clearance to scoot through.
In the wild, the bongo is a browser, eating a variety of plants. Bongo have been known to stand on their hind legs, bracing their front legs against a tree trunk to reach higher leaves and twigs.
On July 11th, Rosie and Baxter (Caldwell Zoo’s resident pair of bongos) became parents to little Sabastian. Although bongos are not endangered, our little boy is an important addition to the captive bongo population. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List shows bongos as “near threatened” with their population declining. Because of the concern for wild bongo populations, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) created a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for captive bongos in 2000. Bongo are said to be rather easy to trap, but until recently local superstitions linking bongo to several diseases prevented native people from catching them for food. Lately scientists believe that bongo populations are shrinking.
Be sure to come out to see our Sabastian before he is all grown up. He’s a cutie!!