The African Forest Bongo at Dzanga-Sangha

Le Bongo Dzanga-Sangha
le Bongo

The bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) is a herbivorous mammal belonging to the Bovidae family. This beautiful African antelope is the most colorful on the continent. It is one of the largest forest antelopes, it measures between 1.70 to 2.50 m long, it reaches a height ranging from 1.10 m to 1.30 m, it weighs between 210 and 405 kg, its tail is 45 to 65 cm long. There are two recognized Bongo subspecies, the Mountain Bongo known as Eastern Bongo and the Lowland Bongo known as Western Bongo. Both species are found mainly in dense African forests. The sexual dimorphism is very accentuated, the males are more imposing than the females. The horns are present in both sexes, they can measure up to a meter long. It has a massive body with shorter legs than other antelope breeds, which allows it to slip and hide in thick forests.

The bongo is easily recognizable thanks to its reddish-brown striped dress with 10 to 15 thin vertical lines of white color present on the torso and rump. Males turn black-brown as they age. Both sexes have a crest of hair along the spine from the shoulder to the rump.
A white chevron appears between the two eyes and two large white spots adorn each cheek. Other notable characteristic include large ears that give them excellent hearing and a whitish collar at the base of the neck.
Present in both sexes, the horns are long, spiraling and lyre-shaped. In order not to entangle the horns in the vegetation, he places them on their back. It is also used to break the tallest branches. As with all other antelopes, the bongo horn core is hollow and the outer layer is made of keratin.


Le Bongo Dzanga-Sangha

Bongos live in Africa, from the Congo basin to the Central African Republic and south of Sudan. Small isolated populations live in the Congo Mountains. Bongos mainly occupy lowland forests, they can also be observed up to 4,000 m above sea level in the mountainous forest regions of East Africa and in the tropical forest with dense undergrowth. They do not hesitate to venture into cultivated areas to feast on cereals.

Food & Communication

Bongo en foret
Bongos are herbivore mammals that feed mainly on leaves, roots, bark and grasses. Like many other antelope breeds, Bongos are ruminants with a four-chamber stomach that allows them to easily digest and break down the cellulose found in plants.
To communicate, bongos emit different varieties of sounds, grunts, sniffles, moos, and bleats which among others warn of danger.


le Bongo Dzanga-Sangha

Bongos are shy creatures that rarely show up due to its nightlife. Although they tend to be more active from dusk to dawn, Bongos are sometimes also seen during the day but almost never leave the dense vegetation that surrounds them. Male bongos are solitary and only come into contact with females for the purpose of reproduction. Females, on the other hand, can either be solitary or in groups of up to 50 individuals thus allowing better protection of the young.


Le Bongo
The mating period among the Bongos is generally from October to January. After 9 months of gestation, the female gives birth to a single baby. The peak of the birth of bongos in Dzanga-Sangha occurs between June and August. Females choose dense vegetation to give birth because they can better hide the young from predators. They spend about a week in the dense vegetation and they join other groups when the calf is strong enough. This allows for better protection of the little ones. Bongo’s calves grow relatively quickly, the horns start to be visible after three to four months and weaning occurs at six months.

Threats and Vulnerability

Le Bongo Dzanga-Sangha

Bongos are threatened in their natural environment by numerous predators, leopards, lions, hyenas, pythons which generally attack the calves and many other predators. Another great threat to Bongos is that they are particularly susceptible to disease, an entire population has been wiped out in the late 1800s. In many regions, Bongos are not only hunted for their meat but they have also become a prime target for trophy hunters. They are attractive to trophy hunters because of their beautiful horns. However, poaching and deforestation remain the major threats facing animals in African forests.

The bongos at Dzanga-Sangha

Le Bongo Dzanga-Sangha
Although bongos are shy and rather active at dusk and at night, there is a good chance of observing them in their natural habitat in Dzanga-Sangha. As for many other species of the jungle, the natural forest clearings are also a magnet for bongos. They come to enjoy the mineral-rich water, flowers, fresh leaves, sedges and grasses. The peak of bongo births in Dzanga-Sangha takes place between June and August and an important part of their social life also takes place in the clearings.