10 May 2008 – Ajabu’s big day. In the lush surroundings of her beautiful forest home at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, she has chosen this day for the arrival of her firstborn.
Nature sees to it that, instinctively, mother and young will always find each other but how do we, their human caretakers, tell them apart, you might ask? Is it their horns – beautifully long or sometimes not yet visible? Does their coat set them apart – a whole palette of an enthusiastic painter? Do the stripes give them away? Well, it is a combination of these features that give every one of our protégées their unique identity.
Our Wildlife Officer Fundi has opened the family album for you promising to make you a Bongo expert.
Bongo have between 8 to 14 vertical white stripes on either side. The Bongo in the picture seem to look identical. However, the keen observer may have spotted 12 stripes on the right bongo and only 11 on the left, an important clue…. but how do we distinguish bongo with the same number of stripes? Have you noticed that the first stripe on the right bongo is barely visible whilst the second and third stripe on the left bongo cross half way? There you are!
All bongo grow ivory tipped horns that may reach up to 40 inches. In young bongo, these are not yet visible and only develop with age. Let’s look at the pictures. The horns twist at the same angle but do you notice the difference? Well spotted, the horns of the bongo on the left almost seem to touch whilst the horns on the right bongo leave a wide gap. Perhaps, as the horns grow, these too will touch one day but as with all features, no set of horns is alike. Of course once you know your bongo family, you can easily recognize them from their facial features as well – just see how different these two are!
Ranging from the lightest chestnut to the deepest russet, bongo are easily identifiable by their brilliant coat darkening with age in males. An artist’s dream, the color nuances are seemingly endless. Do you notice the color of the young bongo on the right being much lighter than that of her mother on the left? When fully grown, the size may no longer be an indicator. The different shades of brown will forever be a “telltale.”
The largest of the forest antelopes, the average bongo weighs up to 400 kilos and reaches a height of up to 4 feet. Couldn’t the two adorable bongo toddlers in the picture be twins – their coats almost identical? Their stripes? Hard to count, aren’t they? If it wasn’t for their different build no one could tell that the Bongo on the left is 4 months older than its cousin. There you are, another hint!
Now that you have mastered the art of telling our bongo family apart, we’ll let you in on a little secret: Ajabu’s girl may darken in colour, she will grow magnificent horns, but she will always carry the name she is waiting for you to give her.
Become one of the privileged few to give the offspring of this rare antelope family a name registered in the International Bongo Studbook and be part of her incredible journey through photos and regular updates?
Are you ready to name “your” girl? This link will make you her guardian angel:
For more news on our very successful Bongo Repatriation Program visit this link: bongo.animalorphanagekenya.org or this blog for regular updates.