Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary launched at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy

Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary launched at Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy

The Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary, an 800 acre indigenous forest area on the slopes of Mount Kenya, has been launched.

The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) joined hands with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and other key stakeholders to launch the sanctuary.

“Today, I am here to commission the construction of Mawingu Bongo breeding sanctuary for gradual re-wildering of the captive bongos back into the wild, this underscores my commitment and that of the Government to ensure no species goes into extinction due to decisions which we could have made to secure the species and therefore I call upon all the stakeholder to focus on the implementation of the recovery plan 2019-2025,” Tourism & Wildlife CS Najib Balala said.

The Sanctuary is a fundamental element in the conservation of the species and represents the next step in its breeding program.

It will enable the rewilding of the animals and provide the National Bongo Task Force with individuals for reintroduction into indigenous habitats such as Ragati, Eburu, Mau and Aberdares forests.

This is with the aim to achieve a sustainable population in line with the National Mountain Bongo Recovery and Action Plan 2019-2023.

Present for the milestone event was Tourism & Wildlife CS Najib Balala; Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi; National and County government representatives, officials from Kenya Forest Services (KFS), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) as well as international dignitaries.

The Mountain Bongo, a beautiful, elusive and coppery red antelope with white stripes and spiral horns, is the largest forest antelope and can only be found in the wild in Kenya.

Endemic to the country, the Mountain Bongo has been classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with its population in the wild having declined to less than 100 individuals due to poaching, diseases and destruction of habitat due to human encroachment.

“It is my belief that protecting our wildlife is a win-win endeavor, because it requires us to protect their habitats, which also happen to be critical to our own communities. Indeed, the Mountain Bongo is a species whose natural habitat also happens to consist of water towers that nourish our rivers, our farms, and our homes. Therefore, the milestone we are marking today is significant not only for the species itself, but also for our communities who will enjoy the added ecological benefits provided by healthier and Sustainable habitats and ecosystems,” patron of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Humphrey Kariuki said.

Dr. Patrick Omondi, Biodiversity, Research & Planning Director at KWS reiterated that the Mawingu Bongo Sanctuary is part of the implementation of the National Mountain Bongo Recovery and Action Plan 2019 – 2023 that was launched in July 2019 in MKWC and will greatly boost the recovery of the species in the wild.

Kenya Forest Service representative, Mme Charity Muthoni said: “KFS is committed to the growth of Bongo in Kenya that is why the KFS board of directors licensed approximately 800 acres of forest land for the establishment of the Mountain Bongo Sanctuary; we are dedicated to working together with partners like KWS and MKWC to ensure the Mountain Bongo is saved in this nation.”

The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy’s Bongo Rehabilitation program was named in 2016 amongst the three most important wildlife projects worldwide by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In 2004 American Zoological Institutions joined hands with the Bongo Species Survival Plan in returning 18 of their Zoo bred bongo with Kenyan ancestry to the soil of their origin.

Since then, the population has grown and in 2020, twelve baby Bongo were born as part of the MKWC breeding program, which has brought the total births in the last 5 years to over 70.

Stakeholders at the event noted that such conservation programs are a long term commitment requiring the involvement of all partners but also community support.