The Meru County Bongo and Black Rhino Conservation Trust has completed building a 25 acre sanctuary in readiness for 22 Mountain Bongo to be flown from the US in January 2024.
The trust’s patron, Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza and Chairman John Kinoti announced the completion of the first phase of a project meant to conserve the critically endangered species.
The second phase is building a sanctuary for conservation of the Black Rhino, another endangered species, on a 250 acre sanctuary around the Mucheene-Ntirimiti area, part of the Mount Kenya Forest.
The 25 animals, 20 of them female will be put in specially made crates and flown into Nairobi aboard a jetliner and then transported to the sanctuary.
Mwangaza and Kinoti said with the Mountain Bongo on the brink of extinction the trust had put in place adequate measures to ensure the animals arrive in Kenya safely and are able to multiply inside a guarded sanctuary.
A temporary holding area fitted with paddocks had been set up to enable the animals acclimatize and settle after landing, before they are released into the wild.
People will initially be unable to see or interact with the animals, with Mr Kinoti saying they were dealing with very sensitive animals.
Kinoti said with the entire country having less than 100 Mountain Bongo, the trust had taken very stringent steps to ensure their survival and multiplication.
“There are so many restrictions we have to take up but the future is great,” he said.
The animals are currently inside an area measuring between 15 to 20 acres where they have been under the care of the Florida Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF)
Kinoti revealed that the bongos, aged between 3 and 7 will use an airplane as transporting them by sea would take too long and cause them much stress.
“There will be girls and five boys, all virgins!” he said.
“From Florida there will be one stop for refueling then direct to Nairobi. They will then be offloaded by KWS, take four hours by road and released into sanctuary. We are praying hard that there will be no casualties,” Kinoti said.
Governor Mwangaza who said she would be leading a team to the US for the selection of the animals revealed that they had received an importation license from the KWS.
The returned Bongos will be placed in spacious, specially built, fence-protected enclosures where they will be closely observed to ensure their acclimation, she said.
“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 within the northern slope of the Mt. Kenya Forest,” said Mwangaza.
She added; “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 the benefit of conservation and economic development”.
The bongo groups will be protected to breed and thrive, providing future generations to be re-wilded into Mt. Kenya’s forest ecosystem, she said.