The First Lowland Bongo Discovered In Uganda’s Semuliki National Park by Chester Zoo

Annews24-Semuli National park , Camera trap photos have confirmed the first-ever sighting of the world’s largest forest antelope in Uganda.

  • Endemic to the tropical forests of Central and West Africa, the lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus) is known for its red-brown coat with white-yellow stripes and long, lightly spiraled horns. Adult male bongos can stand as tall as 1.3 meters (or over 4 feet) at the shoulders and weigh as much as 800 pounds.
  • Scientists with the UK-based Chester Zoo say that the mostly nocturnal ungulate was captured by motion-sensor camera traps in the lowland rainforests of Semuliki National Park in southwest Uganda, where the East African country borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • The western or lowland bongo, one of two recognized subspecies of bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), is listed as Near-Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The subspecies faces ongoing population declines due to habitat loss, hunting for meat, and trophy hunting, threats that continue to increase as human settlements and commercial forestry expand ever-farther into their range.

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Endemic to the tropical forests of Central and West Africa, the lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus) is known for its red-brown coat with white-yellow stripes and long, lightly spiraled horns. Adult male bongos can stand as tall as 1.3 meters (or over 4 feet) at the shoulders and weigh as much as 800 pounds.

Scientists with the UK-based Chester Zoo say that the mostly nocturnal ungulate was captured by motion-sensor camera traps in the lowland rainforests of Semuliki National Park in southwest Uganda, where the East African country borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The lowland rainforests of Semuliki are continuous with the Ituri rainforest of the DRC and, together, they are considered some of the oldest and most biodiverse forests in Africa, according to the Chester Zoo.

Chimpanzee in Semuliki National Park. In total, the Chester Zoo survey has captured over 18,000 pictures yielding images of 32 species of mammals including a number of species that had never been recorded in the park before (Image by Annews24 ©️Chester zoo)

“We were amazed that such a large, striking animal could go undetected for so long, but bongo are a notoriously shy and elusive species,” Chester Zoo’s Africa field program coordinator, Stuart Nixon, who is leading a camera trap survey of Semuliki National Park’s mammal biodiversity in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, said in a statement. “It could be that bongo and other species are moving between Virunga National park in DRC and Uganda, showing just how important it is to protect the rainforests, which still connect the two countries.”

The western or lowland bongo, one of two recognized subspecies of bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), is listed as Near-Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The subspecies faces ongoing population declines due to habitat loss, hunting for meat, and trophy hunting, threats that continue to increase as human settlements and commercial forestry expand ever-farther into their range.

The lowland subspecies was previously known to have what the IUCN describes as “a disjunct distribution range,” extending from Sierra Leone on Africa’s west coast to nearby Togo and Benin, as well as from the southwest of Cameroon and the northeast of Gabon through the Central African Republic, southwest South Sudan, northern Republic of Congo, and northern DRC. “The gap in distribution is assumed to reflect patterns of expansion and contraction of forest habitats resulting from climatic fluctuations,” the IUCN explains.

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While this is the first sighting of the lowland bongo in Uganda, Nixon said that the subspecies is also something of a rare sight throughout the rest of its known range in the forests of western and central Africa. And, unlike the other bongo subspecies, the mountain bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci), he added, there are no lowland bongo held in zoos, so all conservation actions targeting the subspecies must focus solely on these elusive wild populations.

“As thrilled as we are with this discovery,” Nixon said, “much more work is needed to learn more about this newly found species in Uganda and elsewhere across its range.”

Bongo in Semuliki National Park. Photo By ©️Chester zoo

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