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Five mountain bongos released into sanctuary

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Five mountain bongos have been set free in a sanctuary in a big step in the fight to save the animals which are only about 100 left in the wild.

Considered critically endangered, the chestnut-coloured mountain bongo is one of the largest forest antelopes and native to the equatorial forests of Mount Kenya, Eburu, Mau and the Aberdares.

In March 2022, the first five mountain bongos that had been successfully returned to the wild were set free at the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary.

The Bongos were released between November 25 and December 1, bringing the total number of rewilded Bongos in 2022 to 10.

The breeding program for bongos began in 2004, according to Dr Robert Aruho, Head of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC).

“Our intention is to breed the Bongos and prime the animals for survival in the wild. We can’t do without our environment. We hear about climate change, how does this come about? It happens when we become poor stewards of our environment. This includes the management of wildlife and its habitats. To sustain our efforts, we must make interventions in the communities that address these challenges,” Dr Aruho said.

The release involved an intricate procedure that included selection, capture, and translocation, as well as post-release monitoring to ensure their safe welfare in the sanctuary.

Rewilding is a process of providing suitable conditions that allow wildlife originally under human care regain their wild instincts.

So, translocation is a step toward rewilding, but animals that have been moved don’t have to be considered rewilded until they have fully regained their instincts for living in the wild.

MKWC and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), along with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), have been leading a breeding and rewilding program for the last 20 years.

According to Dr Isaac Lekolool, Head Veterinary Services at KWS, every year, 10 mountain bongos will be released into the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary in groups of five every six months.

 It is estimated that by 2025, the sanctuary will have 50 to 70 fully rewilded mountain bongos.

“We currently have 10 Bongos within the sanctuary, and our plan is to introduce five individuals every six months until we get a good population in the rewilding sanctuary, said Dr Lekolool.

“We have well-trained teams, and we have set up camera traps to do remote monitoring so that we don’t interfere with the animals’ natural movements to monitor whether these animals are doing well after translocation.”

Since the release of five Bongos in March 2022, the sanctuary has already registered one wild bongo birth, providing further incentive that the first animals have fully settled in their new home in the wild since the program began.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) predicts bongos’ numbers will probably continue to decline without direct action. A 2021 wildlife census in Kenya counted just 96 mountain bongos in the wild.



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