Over the last few years, the Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP) has discovered that there are small isolated groups of mountain bongo, still surviving in the wild, living in Kenya’s highland forests. Found only in Kenya, the Mountain or Eastern Bongo is critically endangered. The species has undergone a drastic decline; there may be fewer than 100 individuals remaining in the wild due to poaching, disease, habitat loss and forest degradation. The BSP is grass roots based: led by Mike Prettejohn, who has lived, close to these forests all his life. His team of experienced trackers collect vital data about the last remaining bongos, which forms a crucial baseline about bongo locations, habitat locations and threats. The BSP runs an effective conservation-education program through its 19 Bongo Wildlife Clubs. The Bongo Wildlife Clubs are located in the local schools, selected for their proximity to these remaining bongo groups.
By collecting research, monitoring and carrying out surveillance in these forests (Aberdares, Mt Kenya, Mau and Eburu), the BSP actively measures the conservation benefits of their activities. Records are maintained ranging from video film to surveillance data – i.e. details of the bongo presence in these areas. The team will utilise innovation and new technology, GPS and Camera Traps to help form specific data on the population of bongo and surrounding threats. They will record illegal activities whilst on surveillance and report to the appropriate authorities. Further, BSP trackers who come from the local communities use traditional tracking methods and experience gathered from many years in these forests. They are an integral link into the communities, and act as representatives for “bongo conservation”. During 2012, where a permanent BSP team were based in the Mau Forest area (near Kericho), over 200 snares and 17 elephant spear traps were collected by the BSP team in the first two months. The conservation benefits in this area of BSP monitoring have been remarkable.
In the 2014-2015, the Bongo Surveillance Project has increased the number of Bongo tracker teams to improve the surveillance on Bongos and illegal activities in six forest habitats. In collaboration with the University of Kent, an identification program is also being developed, which will use a computer program to identify individuals through unique Bongo stripe patterns. Together with DNA sampling, this initiative will help increase our understanding of Bongo ecology and population dynamics. Taronga’s funding has also helped the Bongo Surveillance Project to produce educational material for Bongo conservation, which were distributed to schools in the area as well as during a workshop that was held near Mt Kenya that was attended by 19 schools and communities across the whole of Kenya.
Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP) was founded in 2004 in the Aberdare forests of central Kenya, one of the last places the critically endangered Eastern Bongos are known to survive in the wild. Led by founder Mike Prettejohn, a team of experienced trackers gather scientific data on the presence and distribution of the remaining mountain bongo as well as data on human activity within the indigenous forests where these animals are found. Their mission is clear: "The objective of the Bongo Surveillance Project is to protect and conserve the critically endangered eastern or mountain bongo and its habitat, by working with local communities and stakeholders worldwide."
What can you do?
Watch for wildlife in your backyard: If you find injured or orphaned (be sure it’s orphaned before moving it) wildlife please contact a wildlife rescue organisation or Taronga Wildlife Hospital.