Zoo Sends Bongos to Homeland
Captive-Bred Mountain Bongos Being Flown from U.S. Zoos to Mount Kenya
The Saint Louis Zoo, along with 12 other zoos and conservation organizations in the U.S., has partnered with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and others in an effort to repopulate the critically endangered mountain bongo antelope. Eighteen captive-bred bongos, including two females bred at the Saint Louis Zoo, were flown to a wildlife preserve in Kenya on January 28, 2004, where they will live and breed.
Bongos are so rare that they have not been seen in their natural habitat on Mount Kenya in nearly a decade.
Flying the bongos to their native land is the first step in a multi-phase program to re-establish mountain bongos in the wild. The bongos will breed in a protected environment at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch. Conservationists hope that in three to five generations, they will be accustomed to the wild and ready to be set free. UN officials say returning the bongos will also benefit the people of Kenya with the money brought in by eco-tourism.
Key Facts about Mountain Bongo Antelope:
- Probably extinct in original habitat on Mount Kenya due to hunting, poaching, habitat destruction and lion predation
- Has not been seen in the wild since 1994-1995
- Preservation and breeding efforts by U.S. zoos have kept the mountain bongo from becoming extinct.
The organizations contributing animals for repatriation include: Busch Gardens Tampa; Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Houston Zoo; Cape May County Zoo, New Jersey; International Animal Exchange, Michigan; Jacksonville Zoo, Florida; Los Angeles Zoo; Peace River Refuge, Florida; Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, Florida; San Diego Zoo; St. Louis Zoo; Virginia Zoological Park; and White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida. Initial seed funding for the project was provided by the Donner Canadian Foundation.
Partners in the Mountain Bongo Reintroduction program include: Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Foundation, Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service, William Holden Foundation, and 13 U.S. Zoos and conservation oganizations.