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Warm welcome for park's flamboyant pair

PUBLISHED: 07:39 30 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:31 06 July 2010

TWO new and very rare residents are settling in to their new home at Africa Alive in Kessingland.

The two Eastern Bongos, Noodles and Ayrna, recently arrived from Paignton Zoo in Devon, as part of a European breeding programme for the forest antelopes, which hail from the mountain forests of Central Kenya.

TWO new and very rare residents are settling in to their new home at Africa Alive in Kessingland.

The two Eastern Bongos, Noodles and Ayrna, recently arrived from Paignton Zoo in Devon, as part of a European breeding programme for the forest antelopes, which hail from the mountain forests of Central Kenya.

In Kenya, Bongos are hunted for their meat and coat. They are also under severe threat from habitat destruction and are believed to be one of, if not the most, endangered large mammal south of the Sahara with as few as 140 left in the wild.

The largest and heaviest of the forest antelopes, Bongos are also one of the most flamboyant. Males and females have spiralled, lyre-shaped horns and a striking chestnut-red coat, with 12 to 14 narrow white stripes on their shoulders, flanks and hindquarters.

Noodles and Ayrna are part of a European Endangered species breeding programme and, with only around 500 Bongos in zoos worldwide, there are hopes that they will enable Africa Alive to play a role in saving the species from extinction.

Bongo facts:

They generally live in groups of about eight females with their young and a dominant bull, though they have been known to congregate into larger groups of up to 50 after calving.

Mothers give birth to a single calf after a nine month gestation period. At first the young are left in a secluded 'hiding spot' to protect them from predators, with the mother returning regularly to nurse them. They are weaned after six months, reaching sexual maturity at about 20 months.

Non-dominant or ageing males are often solitary wanderers or collect in small groups. Bongos have a timid nature and are easily spooked, usually only venturing into more open ground at night and are most active at sunrise and early in the day.

They feed on vegetation such as grasses, flowers, leaves, twigs, cereals, herb plants and thistles and have a long prehensile tongue to help aid the food gathering process.

In the 1980's, the virus Rinderpest (also called 'cattle plague') decimated the wild population.

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