Just in time for Mother’s Day, ZooTampa is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Eastern bongo. First-time mother, Blitzen, gave birth to a female calf at 2:30 am Saturday, May 1st. The baby weighs more than 35 pounds and stands approximately 2 feet tall.
The newest bongo received a neonatal exam from the Zoo’s veterinary staff shortly after birth and was found to be healthy and thriving. Once the calf is older, she will be introduced to her father, Kito, and the family’s Africa habitat at the Zoo.
“The birth of every newborn animal at ZooTampa is cause for celebration, but the birth of an endangered species is always a new occasion for hope,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, chief zoological officer. “Bongo conservation in the wild is ongoing, but the effort continues to meet many challenges. ZooTampa has joined zoos around the world to make sure this beautiful animal continues to exist.’’
The mother and father of the new baby bongo were recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP). ZooTampa is an active participant in more than a hundred SSPs, which exist to ensure that zoological populations remain healthy, genetically diverse, and self-sustaining for future generations.
The bongo is the largest forest-dwelling antelope species and one of the most distinctive, sporting a glossy chestnut or orange-colored coat, large ears, eye-catching vertical white stripes, and long horns that spiral as high as three feet. These colorful creatures can weigh between 525 and 880 lbs. In addition to the loss of their forest homes, they were hunted out over a century ago and still have not fully recovered.