Kenya moots plan to save Mountain Bongo

Kenya’s’ Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Monday launched the National Recovery and Action Plan for the critically endangered Mountain Bongo. The Plan was launched by the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism & Wildlife, Najib Balala.

The plan seeks to address the myriad challenges facing the Mountain Bongo and will jump-start the process of reversing their population decline. It will be implemented by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in partnership with private and community conservancies and trusts.

“Our work, along with the Kenya Wildlife Service, communities and conservation partners will ensure that the critically endangered Mountain Bongo population starts to thrive in our country once again. The Bongo is part of Kenyan culture, heritage and identity: it is our collective responsibility to protect it,” said Minister Balala.

With fewer than 100 Bongos left in the wild, the Mountain Bongo has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a critically-endangered species.

In spite of its threatened status, there is not enough focus on the plight of this magnificent antelope which is endemic to Kenya, as compared to other wildlife such as rhinos, elephants, or lions. The launch of the Plan will rectify this trend by highlighting the precarious status of the Mountain Bongo.

Key interventions will focus on Security, Human Activities, Disease Prevention, Species Interaction, enhancing breeding programs and Policy Harmonization.

From a security perspective, KWS will make provisions for the creation of Intensive Protection Zones staffed by a permanent security force engaged in daily patrols, anti-poaching and de-snaring activities. To manage human activity around Mountain Bongo habitats, KWS and her partners will work with Community Forest Associations and Host Communities to curb illegal activities and enhance sustainable practices.

The strategy will leverage on-going local and international efforts to prevent extinction of this iconic species. In 2010, KWS brought together all the Mountain Bongo conservation players, both local and international, and assembled at Green Hills Hotel, Nyeri. The purpose was to pinpoint what was ailing the species and to chart a way forward towards the recovery of their population.

The initiative resulted in the formation of the National Bongo Task Force (NBTF) and the idea to develop a National Bongo Recovery and Action Plan was born. This was to ensure co-ordinated efforts that include surveillance of the wild population, protection of their habitats, conservation education and advocacy programs for communities living around Mountain Bongo ranges, as well as captive and in-situ breeding programs.

A long-time partner in the process is The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, a non-profit trust which was established in 2004 and which has a long history in Mountain Bongo preservation.

To support the survival of the Mountain Bongo, ongoing local and international efforts are establishing the locations and numbers of the wild populations, and securing and protecting their habitats, with captive and in-situ breeding programs to supplement the wild populations.

The Bongo Surveillance program (BSP) has been central in establishing the current locations and numbers of the wild populations. Rhino Ark, in conjunction with KWS and other stakeholders, have continued to secure and protect the habitats by constructing perimeter fences and providing security.

Incidentally, conserving the Mountain Bongo is a “One stone, two birds’ achievement,” since Mountain Bongo habitats are the country’s water towers – by conserving the Bongo, we secure our water towers.

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