Kenya’s population of wild mountain bongo — a type of antelope — has dramatically fallen over the years due to habitat degradation, forest fragmentation, poaching, and other human impacts. What’s more, there are now no mountain bongo left on Mount Kenya, the second tallest mountain in Africa.
Likewise, the number of black rhino in the area has also fallen, and they are now also considered to be a critically endangered species.
To help the numbers of both species rebound, the Kenya Forest Service Board has approved a request by the Meru County Government in Kenya to establish a mountain bongo and black rhino sanctuary, according to the Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust. The 250-acre parcel of forest land will be located in the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve.
“Meru County Government is championing the new bongo and black rhino sanctuary through an ongoing Public Private People Partnership (PPPP) that helps propel Kenya’s National Bongo Recovery and Action Plan (2019–2023) into tangible conservation action,” the Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust explains.
The multi-stakeholder partnership “aims to repatriate bongo and engage local communities in eco-tourism and eco-friendly sustainable agriculture, and leverage protection for biodiversity across Mount Kenya’s vast forest ecosystem.”
Mountain Bongo And Black Rhino
Mountain bongo, also known as eastern bongo, are the largest, heaviest, and most colorful African forest antelope. Indeed, their chestnut-colored coat prominently features between 10 and 15 vertical whitish-yellow stripes, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Mountain bongo stand about 50 inches tall at the shoulder. Their weight can vary from 500 to nearly 900 pounds.
Interestingly, both males and females have “spiraled lyre-shaped horns.” Those horns, by the way, can grow to lengths of up to 3 feet.
While the antelope typically live around 20 years in captivity, there is no data about the wild mountain bongo’s lifespan.
Meanwhile, between 1970 and 1993, the population of black rhinos decreased by 96 percent from approximately 65,000 to only 2,300 black rhinos in the wild, according to the International Rhino Foundation.
As a result of significant ongoing anti-poaching efforts and strategic relocations to safer areas, the black rhino population has now rebounded to around 5,630 in the wild. Nonetheless, the black rhino is still considered critically endangered.
Black rhinos, which can live about 40 years in the wild, stand between 4.5 feet and 5.5 feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh between 1,750 and 3,000 pounds. Amazingly, they are also between 10 and 12 feet long.
Finally, of course, black rhinos have two horns. The front horn is the larger of the two and measures between 20 and 55 inches in length. The rear, smaller horn typically is about 22 inches long.
Populating The Mountain Bongo And Black Rhino Sanctuary
The Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust will create and populate the sanctuary based on guidance from the Meru County Government, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust, Ntimaka and Kamulu Community Forest Associations, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, and Florida International University’s Tropical Conservation Institute.
The overall initiative will take place in two stages: First, the bongos will be introduced and then the black rhinos.
Fortunately, “robust” numbers of mountain bongos are being raised in Florida by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation specifically for eventual repatriation back to their native home in Kenya, the Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust explains.
The Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, will transfer the mountain bongo from Florida to Kenya. The group will also transport future generations of the bongo so they too may be reintroduced into the Mount Kenya Forest.
“The bongos will be placed in spacious, specially-built, fence-protected enclosures where they will be closely observed to ensure their acclimation,” according to the Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust. “The new sanctuary enables bongo groups to breed and thrive, providing future generations to be rewilded into Mount Kenya’s forest ecosystem.”
There also is a large healthy population of black rhinos at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. A series of wildlife corridors will be built to connect the new sanctuary and the greater Mount Kenya ecosystem for the black rhinos to make their way into the new sanctuary.
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