The Ecology of the Mountain Bongo Antelope

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These pages detail the ecological research that was conducted to support the Mountain Bongo Repatriation and Reintroduction Project and in situ bongo conservation action by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Bongo Surveillance Programme (BSP).

The mountain bongo antelope (Tragelaphus euryceros isaaci) is the flagship species of Kenya’s high mountain forests. Once numerous within its restricted habitats, the mountain bongo has declined dramatically over the past 40 years. This decline has probably been caused by a combination of several factors related to rapid human population growth: encroachment into forest estate, livestock-mediated disease events, and over-hunting. In order to recover the wild bongo populations, two parallel and complementary conservation efforts were set in motion in 2003-2004. One of these is the Mountain Bongo Repatriation and Reintroduction Project, an international project spearheaded by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) that aims to re-establish a viable wild population on Mount Kenya in three phases: Phase1) the repatriation of North American captive bongo (in January, 2004) to a breeding facility at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy; Phase 2) a. undertaking ecological research to determine bongo habitat selection requirements and the distribution of suitable bongo habitat on Mount Kenya; b. construction of a larger transitional breeding facility within Mount Kenya’s forests; Phase 3) the sustained release of re-habituated offspring onto Mount Kenya from the Phase Two enclosure, and the implementation of in situ conservation measures informed by Phase Two research.

The other bongo conservation effort is the Bongo Surveillance Programme (BSP), which was started in 2003 by Michael Prettejohn, a former bongo professional hunter and long-time resident of the Aberdares area. In 2003, Mr. Prettejohn began bongo surveys of the Aberdares, where the largest remaining bongo herds remain. Working with the KWS and experienced trackers who assisted Don Hunt, Alan Root, and others to capture bongo for the zoo trade in the 1960s and 70s, as well as local NGOs such as the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, Mr. Prettejohn’s BSP found the location of several herds in the Aberdares. The BSP’s findings informed the ecological research strategy that was adopted by RSCF for Phase Two of the Reintroduction Project.

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