As Kenyans were engrossed in politics last week, somewhere in the wild, history was made.
Four calves of the critically endangered mountain bongo antelope were born in Mount Kenya Conservancy (MKWC), placing Kenya at the core of global tourism as one of the countries that hosts the rare species.
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The number of Mountain bongo antelopes has been dwindling, with current population at less than 100 worldwide. This is below the threshold of 250 mature individuals required to make a genetically stable population.
Don Bunge, Wildlife Manager at Mt Kenya Conservancy said they had waited enthusiastically for the birth, and it marks a new hope for a species that was feared to be fading due to illegal logging, loss of habitat, and poaching.
“We are delighted at the recent deliveries of four calves following a more than four-month lull,” he said.
He said Kenya could be the only country that has free range mountain bongo antelopes, with other countries having it either in zoos or cages.
He added that MKWC has been running a computer generated breeding program that determines matching to rule out inbreeding.
Their focus is to boost the population and produce sturdy offspring that can survive the wild.
The animals were named after significant events happening in the country around the time of their birth.
One is called ‘kura’ to celebrate the elections season. Another is barafu, to remember the cold period when neighbourhood Nyahururu experienced the much talked about ‘snow’; a hailstorm that covered streets, painting it white.
Then there is Lota, named after a Swedish photographer who has been documenting the life of bongo antelopes in the wild.
The last is Sirimon, after one of the peaks of Mt Kenya.
Patrick Benja, 53, who grew up in Mt Elgon recalls seeing a lot of bongo antelopes when he was young.
“They would come even to our homesteads, and we would meet a lot of those animals on our way to school,” he said.
Over time, they reduced in number as residents hunted them for food and their beautiful hide.
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