CLOSE
Christina Ward, Zoo Atlanta Facebook
Christina Ward, Zoo Atlanta Facebook

5 Fast Facts About Eastern Bongos

Christina Ward, Zoo Atlanta Facebook
Christina Ward, Zoo Atlanta Facebook

Last week, Zoo Atlanta’s Facebook page announced the new arrival of a baby Eastern Bongo. This is exciting (and adorable) news, but you might be asking, ‘what even is an Eastern Bongo?” mental_floss talked to Tammy Schmidt, the assistant curator of mammals at Zoo Atlanta, to find out more about these interesting creatures. 

1. There are two bongo subspecies. 

iStock

There are two types of bongos: the western/lowland bongo (T. eurycerus) and the eastern/mountain bongo (T. eurycerus isaaci). Eastern bongos live in the mountainous areas of Africa, such as Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, while western bongos occupy a much larger range, stretching through the central and western parts of Africa. Schmidt explains that, side-by-side, you probably wouldn't be able to tell which is which, but if you look a little closer, the “anatomy is a little different.” The eastern males are actually 100 pounds heavier than their western counterparts and have somewhat brighter fur. 

2. Eastern bongos are endangered. 

iStock

Western bongos are only "near threatened," but their eastern cousins are critically endangered. Mountain bongos are isolated in the mountains and suffer from dwindling numbers. There are more in captivity than in the wild, with less than 200 left roaming free in Africa.  

Unfortunately, predation and growing human populations are pushing the eastern bongo to extinction. “Africa is growing just like the United States, just like Europe, with roadways, family communities, and farming,” Schmidt says. On top of deforestation and increased pollution, humans are also preying on the bongos, which provide plenty of meat. 

In an effort to protect the vulnerable animals, shelters have been set up in various parts of Kenya. Facilities like Zoo Atlanta are also doing their part by participating in breeding programs. 

3. They’re the largest forest antelope in Africa.

iStock

Bongos are pretty hefty animals. They can weigh anywhere from 500 to 900 pounds and grow horns that can be as long as 40 inches. 

Despite their formidable size, they can be pretty skittish. They're also crepuscular animals, meaning they're mostly out grazing between dusk and early morning. The darkness helps them hide from predators. 

“With that beautiful red, it’s hard to hide it, but once you get into the shade and the shadows of the forest—plus the disruption of the stripes they have—they will meld in a little better,” Schmidt explains. 

4. Eastern bongos are social animals.

Finding safety in numbers, the animals are non-territorial and often gather in groups of two to fifty. “50 is being pretty generous considering I just shared that there are less than 200 in the wild. [The herds are] probably much smaller than they were historically,” Schmidt notes. 

Bongo herds generally feature a group of females, juveniles, and one alpha male. Relatives of alpha males, including brothers and uncles, can also be found in the group, but they will often detach to find their own herds. 

“Typically, there is going to be one alpha animal that’s managing the group and primarily breeding some of the alpha females. But the groups contain all sexes and all ages,” Schmidt says.

5. Their unusual appearance aids their lifestyle.

iStock

Both males and females have horns, but fighting is probably not their main function. The unusual horns are used for clearing brush out of the way when the animals are fleeing.  

“When you look at them they’re actually twisted slightly in the middle and backwards,” Schmidt says. “So when you think about battles between males and you think about an elk or a white tailed deer that we would see here in the U.S., they’re really more of a tool that’s upright and ready for action. Whereas the bongos, when you look at them and they’re tilted back, they seem like they’re not really utilized in any kind of battle. It’s typically only going to be a male that’s going to battle another male for territory or protection of a mom and kids.” 

In addition to their strange horns, the animals also sport vibrant reddish chestnut fur. The pigment comes off their fur easily and can stain trees or other brush when they walk past. This feature serves as a special calling card for other bongos in the area. Wandering males or juveniles separated from their mothers can easily find the herd by following the trail of red. Unfortunately, so can predators. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
iStock
iStock

Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios