Photo / Tad Motoyama

Los Angeles Zoo Male Bongo with Baby Male Bongo.

A male, Eastern bongo calf was born at the Los Angeles Zoo on January 20, 2017 to five-year-old, first-time mother, Rizzo, and seven-year-old father Asa. The unnamed calf is special because he is the first bongo baby the Zoo has welcomed in over 20 years. The L.A. Zoo has always exhibited Eastern bongo, a large antelope found in Kenya, but the Zoo recently made breeding the species a priority due to its dwindling numbers in the wild. Because of problems with logging and poaching, there are currently less than 100 individuals that survive in four fragmented areas in the Aberdares Forest and on Mt. Kenya.

“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. “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.”

The bongo are a precocial species, or relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth. The calf was standing and walking within an hour of being born and observed nursing within the first 24 hours. He spent quality time bonding with his mother Rizzo behind the scenes until he was introduced to the rest of the herd, female Frenchy (5), female Sandy (12), and father Asa on Feb. 15. Also housed in the same habitat are two yellow-backed duikers, a forest-dwelling antelope found mainly in central and western Africa. The bongo calf has been very curious of new his neighbors and has expressed interest in getting to know them better.

The calf is large, standing at just under two feet tall and weighing 55 pounds at birth. He has a chestnut-red coat with 10-14 vertical white stripes, a coloration that is an effective camouflage for the bongo’s forest habitat in the wild. The adult bongos in the herd stand at around four and a half feet at the shoulder with the male weighing 800 pounds and the females averaging 500 pounds. Perhaps the most distinct physical characteristic that sets the bongo herd apart from other hoofstock in the Zoo’s collection are their large ears. Unlike many antelope that live on open plains, the bongo relies on hearing more than eyesight given the obstructions of the thick forest in which they reside in the wild. The baby was already born with ears measuring six inches in length! The adult bongos also have long, impressive horns measuring up to 40 inches in length. The calf can expect to start growing horns like the rest of the herd by the time he reaches his first birthdate.  

Guests can now observe the male calf along with the rest of the herd in their habitat daily, weather permitting.