Rare bongo arrival bolsters Zoo conservation breeding program
Thursday 12th April 2012
Eastern Bongo calf Kiazi
Eastern Bongo calf Kiazi

Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of an incredibly rare animal, an Eastern Bongo calf born to first-time mother Djembe on 2 April. 

Eastern (or Highlands) Bongos are Critically Endangered with as few as 75 remaining in small groups of 6 to 12 animals in their Kenyan upland range.

The female calf was born at around 5.30am, and keepers watching on closed circuit TV cameras were delighted at the perfect maternal instincts Djembe showed in cleaning the calf and eating the afterbirth; a trait known in wild Bongos to prevent predators getting any scent of the newborn. The calf, now named ‘Kiazi’ meaning sweet potato, suckled within two hours.

Eastern Bongos are part of a conservation breeding program which is managed across the Australasian region to function as a safety net for this species against the possibility of going extinct in the wild. As part of this program, Melbourne Zoo keepers were also proud to announce the arrival of a male calf born in March to parents that originally came from Taronga Zoos.

Bongos have a magnificent red-brown hide, with white stripes on the shoulders and back which helps camouflage them in the jungle.

They can weigh up to 400 kg and have splendid spiral horns which they lay back along their shoulders by tilting their heads so they can run through the jungle habitat without becoming entangled.

At Taronga, Djembe and her calf share the exhibit with Djembe’s mother, Nambala, so for the first time visitors can see three generations of Bongo together. 

The father, Ekundu, is not on exhibit with the mother and calf, but time-shares the exhibit after hours.

Bongos were one of the last large mammal species to be discovered by scientists and zoologists when first recorded in the mid-1800s.

Numbers of the highland Bongo have collapsed due to poaching of this gentle, largely nocturnal animal. Sadly there are now more bongos in human care than there are in the wild.

See video