THE BAJA POST
Bongos from Florida to be repatriated to Mt. Kenya. Black Rhinos at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy returning to the Mt. Kenya ecosystem.
The Kenya Forest Service Board approved an application for a Special User License requested by the Meru County Government, Kenya, to establish a 250-acre parcel of forest land in the Mt. Kenya Forest Reserve as the first phase of a new Mountain Bongo and Black Rhino sanctuary. The National Environmental Management Authority approval process is underway.
This is good news for the IUCN red-listed Critically Endangered Mountain Bongo antelope, whose large healthy population in Florida has been propagated for repatriation back to its native Kenyan home. Robust family groups of Bongos are being raised and managed by the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) in Florida, USA.
Meru County Government is championing the new Bongo and Black rhino sanctuary through an ongoing Public Private People Partnership (PPPP) that helps propel Kenya’s National Bongo Recovery and Action Plan (2019-2023) into tangible conservation action.
Once distributed across Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, Mau, Eburru Forest and elsewhere, the wild mountain bongo population has declined to fewer than 100 animals due to habitat degradation, forest fragmentation, poaching, and other human impacts. On Mt. Kenya, once the stronghold for this animal, the mountain bongo has disappeared in the wild. This project aims to restore the wild Mt. Kenya population, engage local communities in eco-tourism and eco-friendly sustainable agriculture, and leverage protection for biodiversity across the Mt. Kenya ecosystem.
The Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust is entrusted with the implementation of the project guided by the following stakeholders: the Meru County Government, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust, Ntimaka and Kamulu Community Forest Associations, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, and Florida International University’s Tropical Conservation Institute.
The Bongo Repatriation PPPP project was featured and shared as a model for the conservation of critically endangered wildlife species at the recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) held in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2022. It was the first meeting of leaders, citizens, and interest groups from all over Africa who gathered to talk about the role of protected areas in preserving nature, protecting Africa’s vital wildlife, providing vital ecosystem services, promoting sustainable development, and keeping Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions alive.
The Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust, in partnership with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, will facilitate the successful transfer of the Mountain Bongo from Florida to Kenya and subsequent generations’ sustained reintroduction into the Mt. Kenya Forest. A large healthy population of Black rhinos currently thrive at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya and will be connected to the new sanctuary and the greater Mt. Kenya ecosystem over time through a series of wildlife corridors enabling further recovery of the species.
This initiative will be carried out in stages, with Bongos introduced into the sanctuary during the first phase and Black rhinos introduced in the second. The returned Bongos will be placed in spacious, specially built, fence-protected enclosures where they will be closely observed to ensure their acclimation. The new sanctuary enables Bongo groups to breed and thrive, providing future generations to be rewilded into Mt. Kenya’s forest ecosystem.
This project demonstrates the first effort in several decades of a public-private partnership of its kind in Kenya aimed to re-introduce a wildlife species that had gone extinct to the northern slope of the Mount Kenya Forest. It brings together key stakeholders with the highest level of experience and expertise in wildlife conservation to join hands with the local communities to bring back and protect rare species for benefit of conservation and economic development.