The Bongo breeding program here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has been given an exciting boost! We will soon be introducing a new female, Maisha, to the Zoo’s male Bongo for mating. But joining male and female for breeding doesn’t just happen ‘overnight’, so to speak.
Four-year-old Maisha (pronounced ‘Mee-sha’) began the long journey from Singapore Zoo to Dubbo in late 2015. She spent an 18-month quarantine period at Wellington Zoo in New Zealand, before arriving here in May this year.
The Eastern or Mountain Bongo (as opposed to the other subspecies of the Lowland or Western Bongo) is a species of antelope that is found in one remote region of central Kenya. Sadly, there are less than 200 left roaming free today.
There is limited genetic diversity for this species in Australia, so Maisha holds exciting promise for the Zoo’s breeding program - particularly the new genetics she brings.
Friendships come first. Maisha has now met Djembe, our existing nine-year-old female Bongo. Developing a strong relationship between the two females is an important part of the process. With Djembe by her side, Maisha will be more comfortable when she finally meets Kulungu, the male Bongo.
Next comes the introduction – gradually! We will soon introduce the females to Kulungu in separate enclosures, so that they can see and smell each other through the fence. If they choose not to interact with each other, they can simply move away from the fence, limiting stress for the animals. Their behavioural signs will be closely monitored by our Zoo Keepers, to make sure they are safe and content in each other’s company.
Finally, the grand event. When it’s time to introduce all three Bongo, they will be put in a single enclosure. Zoo Keepers will be monitoring this carefully, and will be watching for any aggressive behaviour shown from the male. Chances are, there will be a lot of chasing occurring and, we’re hoping, interest shown from the male! While Bongo males are bigger than females, the females can outrun males. For mating to occur, it will be up to the females to decide whether or not they are happy with Kulungu.
Unfortunately, dwindling numbers of Eastern Bongo in the wild are threatening the future of this species. This means the Zoo’s male Bongo has an even more important job to do! We’re hopeful for a growing Bongo herd, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.