Rare Bongo Antelope Discovered in Uganda

August 6, 2019 - 3 minutes read

The world’s largest forest antelope has been caught on camera in Uganda for the first time. The lowland bongo, an elusive striped antelope, was snapped in dense forest near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The forest-dwelling antelope is classed as “near threatened” on the extinction list, due to habitat loss and hunting. The estimated population in central and western Africa has declined to around 30,000 total animals.

How was the antelope discovered?

The bongo was spotted using motion-sensor cameras in Semuliki National Park, near Fort Portal in Uganda’s far west. The park is home to one of Africa’s most ancient forests, which harbors hundreds of different bird and mammal species.

It was identified during a survey of mammals across the park. More than 30 mammal species were spotted among 18,000 pictures snapped by the remote cameras, including elephant, chimps, buffalo and leopards.

“We were amazed that such a large, striking animal could go undetected for so long, but bongo are a notoriously shy and elusive species,” says Stuart Nixon of the Africa Field Program of Britain’s Chester Zoo, which carried out the study alongside the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

“It could be that bongo and other species are moving between Virunga National Park in the DRC and Uganda, showing just how important it is to protect the rainforests, which still connect the two countries.”

Researchers think there may be other rare animal species yet to be discovered in the same forest.

How do we protect the bongo?

“There are very few places on the map that are true wildernesses,” says Scott Wilson, head of field programs at Chester Zoo. “It’s nice to know there are still places to be explored and species to be found.”

Not a single lowland bongo is currently kept in a zoo anywhere in the world. So efforts to protect them must focus on protecting the animal in the wild.

The species is rare throughout the forests of western and central Africa, with populations declining due to habitat destruction and hunting for meat, mainly through using snares.

“As thrilled as we are with this discovery, much more work is needed to learn more about this newly found species in Uganda and elsewhere across its range,” says Nixon.

How can I see thus special creature?

Adventure Consults can easily include Semuliki National Park in your Uganda safari itinerary. While this doesn’t guarantee spotting the lowland bongo (given its rarity and shyness), it does mean that you can experience the incredible forest ecosystem that the elusive animal calls home.

Facts about the lowland bongo:

  • World’s largest forest antelope
  • Feeds on leaves, bushes, vines, bark, grasses, roots, cereals, shrubs and fruit
  • Bongos are timid and easily frightened, mainly living alone
  • Adult males will occasionally meet and fight with their horns

Source: African Wildlife Foundation

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