The bongos are a species of African antelope that live mainly in the tropical rainforests of central and western Africa. This antelope has a unique appearance with white stripes and spots on its reddish-brown coat, as well as spiral horns that can reach up to a meter in length.
The bongo is a solitary and inconspicuous animal, which moves slowly and silently through dense forests in search of food. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on leaves, fruits and young shoots, and they are able to graze on tall plants thanks to their long, slender legs.
They are also known for their territorial behavior and aggression towards other males. Males defend their territory by using their horns to fight other males seeking to invade their territory or take their place. However, they are also vulnerable to predators such as leopards, lions and hyenas.
Unfortunately, bongo populations are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation, as well as by hunting for their meat and horns. Bongos are also vulnerable to disease and parasites, which has contributed to their declining population in the wild.
Conservation programs have been put in place to help protect bongo populations and their habitat. Zoos around the world also participate in captive breeding programs to help maintain a viable captive population of this rare and beautiful species
In what environment do they live?
Bongos live mainly in the tropical rainforests of Central and West Africa. They can be found in countries such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Liberia.
These antelopes have a preference for dense forest areas, where they can find dense ground cover to hide and feed. They move slowly and silently through the forest, avoiding open areas and preferring shaded areas and streams.
Bongos need intact forest habitat for their survival, as they depend on dense vegetation for food and protection from predators. However, deforestation and habitat fragmentation have reduced bongo populations in many parts of their natural range.
Efforts are underway to protect rainforests and bongo habitat, as well as to study and monitor populations of this endangered species. Zoos and captive conservation facilities also play an important role in bongo preservation, participating in captive breeding programs to maintain a viable captive population of this rare and fascinating species.
When to observe bongos?
They are discreet and shy animals that are generally difficult to observe in the wild. Since they prefer dense forest areas, they are often hidden under ground cover and only come out during periods of low light or at night.
However, it is possible to observe bongos in protected areas, national parks or nature reserves that are home to bongo populations. These areas provide suitable habitat for bongos and may provide opportunities for wildlife viewing.
In some Central and West African countries, bush safaris are offered to observe wildlife, including bongos. These safaris are usually led by experienced guides who know the habits and behaviors of animals in their natural habitat.
It is important to note that the conservation of bongos is crucial to preserve this rare and magnificent species. It is therefore essential not to disturb wild populations of bongos by hunting them or disturbing their natural habitat. Bongo sightings should be done responsibly, respecting the rules and regulations of protected areas and avoiding any disturbance or impact on wildlife.
How do they feed?
Bongos are herbivores and feed mainly on leaves, young shoots, fruits, fungi and mosses. They have a preference for plants rich in protein and minerals, such as woody plants, shrubs and vines.
They have a particular anatomical adaptation for their diet. Their tongue is very long, allowing them to reach high up leaves, while their neck is long and flexible, allowing them to feed on the leaves and branches of trees.
They are also known for their ability to consume poisonous plants which are avoided by other herbivores. This adaptation is possible thanks to their long digestive tract, which allows them to break down and absorb nutrients from poisonous plants.
However, food availability can vary greatly with seasons and climatic conditions, and bongos may have to move to find food. Bongos are animals that can travel great distances to find food sources, which can lead them to cross open areas where they are more vulnerable to predators.
The conservation of rainforests is therefore crucial to ensure the continued availability of adequate food for bongos and other animals that depend on this forest habitat.
What are their characteristics?
Bongos are large antelopes that are distinguished by their unique coat and particular morphology. Here are some of their main features:
Size and weight: they are the largest forest antelopes, with a height of up to 1.4 meters at the withers for males and a weight of 250 to 400 kg. The females are a little smaller than the males.
Coat: The coat is very distinctive, with white and black stripes on a red-brown background. This coloration serves as camouflage in their dense forest habitat. The stripes of the bongos are also very useful for identifying them individually.
Morphology: Bongos have long, slender legs, which allow them to move easily in the dense forest and jump over obstacles. Their necks are long and flexible, which allows them to reach leaves and branches high up. They also have spiral horns in both sexes, with the horns of males being longer and thicker than those of females.
Behaviour: Bongos are shy and solitary animals, although females may gather in small groups with their young. They are mainly active in the early morning and late evening, and spend most of the day resting and feeding. Bongos are also known for their ability to hide and stay still for long periods of time, which makes them difficult to spot in the wild.
Geographical distribution: They are present in Central and West Africa, inhabiting the dense and humid forests of the region. They are considered an endangered species due to habitat loss and overhunting.
How do they communicate?
Bongos have a sophisticated communication system, although they are rather solitary and inconspicuous animals. They use visual and sound signals to communicate with each other, in particular to establish their territory and to signal themselves in case of danger.
Males mainly use sound signals to communicate with other males and to establish their territory. They produce growls, proboscis and hisses to mark their presence and warn other males not to approach. Females also use sound signals to communicate with their young and to warn other bongos of the presence of predators.
Bongos also use visual cues to communicate, including their striped coat which serves as camouflage in their dense forest habitat. They may also wave their tails to indicate their state of mind, or raise the hair on their backs to appear larger and more threatening.
Finally, they also use their sense of smell to communicate, especially to mark their territory with scent glands located on their head and feet.
Although bongos are rather discreet animals, their sophisticated communication system allows them to stay in contact with other members of their social group and to signal potential dangers.
Bongos have a year-round breeding season, but they tend to breed more during the rainy season. Males and females reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age.
Male seek to attract females by producing loud grunts and sounds, rubbing against trees or bushes, and urinating on vegetation to mark their territory. Males generally must establish dominance over other males before they can mate with females.
When a male and female meet, they sniff and lick each other. The gestation of bongos lasts about 9 months, after which the female gives birth to a single young, which weighs about 20 kg at birth. Females raise their young alone, without the help of the male, and nurse their young for about 6 months. Little bongos can stand and start walking soon after birth, but they remain dependent on their mother for several months.
Bongos are very secretive and shy animals, which makes it difficult to observe their reproductive behavior in the wild. In captivity, however, bongos have been successfully bred in captive breeding programs to help increase the population of this endangered species.
Where can we observe the Bongos during the Ducret Expeditions?
Dzanga Bai within Dzanga Sangha National Park attracts large herds of bongos throughout the year and is certainly the best place to view bongos.
During Ducret Expeditions cruises, it is possible to add a day to travel to the Central African Republic and admire the rich fauna of the Baï de Dzanga Sangha.