There aren’t many babies in the animal kingdom who pop out looking this striking. Born sporting a fiery chestnut coat with thin white lines and adorably massive ears, eastern bongos’ natural beauty is one of the main reasons behind their decline in the wild.
Today in U.S. AZA-accredited zoos, the eastern bongo population is thriving, thankfully. Dallas Zoo just welcomed our first eastern bongo baby in six years, and our 24th calf since our breeding program launched in 1975. Born Nov. 6, our 50-pound female calf has been named Amara, meaning “grace” in the Nigerian language, Igbo. She eventually will grow to be Africa’s largest forest antelope (males can weigh up to 900 pounds!).
Right now, first time mom Hidaya is spending some much-needed quiet time with her calf. She will remain Amara’s sole caretaker for the next nine months. And like most antelope, first time dad Djembe won’t take part in raising his offspring. They get off easy, huh? (We jest!)
“Antelope are generally very skittish, but bongo are one of the most easygoing,” said Keith Zdrojewski, mammal curator. “They’re very laid-back, with personalities almost as big as they are.”
More than 300 eastern bongo are prospering in AZA zoos across the nation – that’s triple the number believed left in the wild. Unlike their better-known western bongo cousins, who inhabit a much larger range, eastern bongos are found only in a few pockets of mountain forests in Kenya and are critically endangered. One of their biggest threats is hunters, who have nearly wiped out their population for their vibrant hides and meat.
“With so few wild eastern bongos remaining, zoos may soon be the only place people can see one of the world’s most beautiful mammals,” said Zdrojewski.
Amara eventually will make her debut in the river exhibit off the monorail safari.
Extra bongo bit:
In about three months, Amara’s horns will begin to show, and could grow up to 40 inches long. Bongos’ unique horns are actually tilted back, and are used for clearing brush out of the way when they’re bolting through the dense forests.