Tracking endangered bongo antelope in Africa

Our very own conservation officer headed to East Africa last year to visit various conservation projects and search for critically endangered mountain bongo!

For many of the Folly Farm team – their passion for animals and conservation doesn’t stop outside of office hours. Last year our very own conservation officer, Jack, went on a holiday of a lifetime to Eastern Africa!

Jack in Africa last year

The eco-tour saw Jack, and previous Folly Farm zookeeper Michelle, travel through Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya with Michelle’s tour company, Wildly Adventures. The tour took 16 days with some of the highlights including tracking mountain gorillas and chimps in Uganda, observing rhinos and leopards in Rwanda, and visiting a mountain bongo conservation breeding project in Kenya.

Michelle from Wildly Adventure and Conservation Officer Jack spotted a rhino and her calf in the wild!

The team also donated some essential equipment to a pangolin rescue centre. Pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world, with their scales used for traditional medicine in the Far East. The centre takes in pangolins which are found by local villagers or have been seized by officials, they’re then able to treat, rehabilitate them and release them back into the National Parks. Jack took some donated equipment with him such as pet carriers, first aid kits, milk feeding bottles, syringes, notepads, wellies and even some Folly Farm waterproof clothing for the rangers.

The pet carriers were particularly well received by rescue centre manager, Moses:

“We currently have a very heavy wooden box which we use for our rescues. Now, with the plastic pet carriers, we can easily strap them to our motorbike, making rescues quicker and easier.”

Jack donated a number of items to assist the team with their rescue efforts

Towards the end of the tour, the duo crossed borders into Kenya and visited the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC). The facility has an onsite orphanage and rehabilitation centre, dedicated to receiving young, sick or injured animals and returning them to the wild. Local school groups and tourists can visit the orphanage, which boosts the economy and gives children an opportunity to learn about and form a connection with the animals there. Annually, the centre hosts over 20,000 students! One of the main threats to the mountain bongo is hunting, so education is hugely important to encourage change of attitudes.

The mountain or Eastern bongo is a critically endangered antelope that live in forested mountainous regions of Kenya. Their population has plummeted to fewer than 100 individuals, and in some regions it has been completely wiped out by unrestricted hunting and expansion of human activities.

Jack and the team spotted Mountain bongo

In 2004, the MKWC received 18 mountain bongo from American zoos. These have since bred successfully, and their offspring have been split into six herds living a semi-natural life in forested enclosures. Jack and Michelle were lucky enough to visit these bongos and help the rangers, Tim and Eric, run a headcount and health check. Check out the video below of their amazing experience.

In 2022, a 776-acre protected pristine forest was created within the Mount Kenya National Park, now known as the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary. The first five bongo have been released here, and an additional ten are due to be released each subsequent year. We wish them every success and hope Folly Farm can further support this incredible project in the future.

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