By Charly SHELTON
For the first time in over 20 years, a new baby bongo is frolicking and hooping around the LA Zoo. A male calf was born to 5-year-old first-time mother Rizzo and 7-year-old father, Asa, on Jan. 20. These large African antelope have always been exhibited at the LA Zoo, but breeding them has become a priority recently because of the dwindling numbers in the wild.
The Eastern or Mountain bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci, is a critically endangered species with less than 100 individuals surviving in the wild across four fragmented areas on Mt. Kenya and in the Aberdares Forest of Kenya. The birth of this new baby is important because, even though it is in captivity, the species is surviving.
“This birth is a true testament to the work zoos are doing to sustain critically endangered species,” said Josh Sisk, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo, in a released statement. “Babies like this little bongo calf engage visitors and allow the Zoo to spread their conservation message. It is our hope that he will one day father offspring of his own.”
Since his birth on Jan. 20, the as-yet unnamed calf has made amazing progress. Within one hour of being born, he was up and walking around. Within 24 hours, he was nursing with his mother. He has six-inch-long ears already and can expect to start growing the bongo’s iconic twisted horns around his first birthday. He is now just over 55 lbs. and about two-feet-tall, and can expect to gain 750 lbs. and grow another two-and-a-half feet by adulthood. He spends his days hopping and running from place-to-place in his enclosure, jumping off of rocks and playing with the other bongos.
This new baby bonded with his mother backstage at the zoo until Feb. 15 when he was introduced to the rest of the herd. There are currently three other bongos – Frenchy, age 5, Sandy, 12, and the baby’s father Asa – as well as two Yellow-Backed Duikers, another kind of forest dwelling antelope found in central and western Africa.
Guests are invited to see the new baby at the LA Zoo every day, weather permitting. His cute little nose and giant ears are enough to melt anyone’s heart.