Another 5 critically endangered Mountain Bongos have been successfully released into the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary.
In March 2022, the first 5 mountain bongos to have ever been rewilded were successfully released into the sanctuary. The new release brings the total number of rewilded Bongos in 2022 to 10.
The Bongos were released between Friday November 25, and Thursday December 1, 2022, in an intricate procedure that involved selection, capture and translocation, and post-release monitoring to ensure their safe welfare in this sanctuary.
Rewilding is a process of providing suitable conditions that allow the wildlife originally under human care or degrade to regain their wild instincts (for animals) or for an area to regain its natural vegetation cover through succession. Therefore, translocation is a step to rewild, but does not necessarily mean that animals translocated have been rewilded till they completely regain their wild instincts for free survival.
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 programme began.
The translocation was overseen by Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC), in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the government agency supporting the Mountain Bongo Breeding and Rewilding programme. In line with the Government of Kenya’s Mountain Bongo National Recovery and Action Plan (2019-2023), the programme aims to have 40-50 fully rewilded mountain bongos by 2025 and 750 by 2050.
The rewilding follows a record-breaking loss of wildlife populations in the region due to habitat loss, poaching and disease. According to last year’s National Wildlife Census in Kenya, less than 100 Mountain Bongos are left living naturally in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) predicts that this number will likely continue to decline unless deliberate action is taken to address these threats.
The Mountain Bongo is associated with the montane forests in the Kenya highlands and is recorded to have become extinct in Kenya in 1995; As of January 2020, the IUCN lists the Mountain Bongo as critically endangered.
Through the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy’s dedicated conservation work spanning over two decades, Kenya now provides global leadership in efforts to prevent the extinction of this special antelope. This entails, among other activities, ecosystem restoration work in close collaboration with the Mount Kenya local communities.
Dr Robert Aruho, Head of Conservancy at MKWC, said: “The Mountain Bongo breeding program started in 2004. 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 Isaac Lekolool, Head Veterinary Services at KWS, said: “At Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, we have the Bongo program. Currently we are doing the Bongo rehabilitation having set up the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary which was officially launched in the year 2022. For this program we are trying to see how to rewild the semi-captive Mountain Bongo which currently exist within MKWC. We currently have 10 Bongos within the Sanctuary and our plan is to introduce 5 individuals after every 6 months until we get a good population in the rewilding Sanctuary. We have teams that are well trained, and we have set up camera traps to do remote monitoring so that we don’t interfere with the animal’s natural movements to monitor these animals are doing well after translocation”
Dr Dominic Mijele, Senior Wildlife Veterinary Officer at KWS, said: “We are part of the breeding program in collaboration with MKWC. A lot of wildlife issues require veterinary intervention, and we are here to conserve Mountain Bongos. We need qualified vets and animal species specialists on our teams to rewild the Bongos. The drugs required to rewild the Bongos are not readily available in Kenya, but with support from KWS and Sheldrick Trust, we are able to get the meds we need to safely rehabilitate these animals Conservation is important as wildlife is a part of our heritage.”
Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) is a non-profit trust with a purpose to inspire present and future generations to preserve and protect nature’s beauty and wildlife. The Conservancy is located in Nanyuki, at the foot of the scenic Mount Kenya, a UN World Heritage Site. It is home to 28 different animal species, a population of roughly 1,200 different animals. The Conservancy’s three main programmes include a rehabilitation project for the Mountain Bongo antelope, an animal orphanage and a conservation education programme.
The KWS is a Kenyan state corporation that was established in 1989 to conserve and manage Kenya’s wildlife.