The bongo is the largest and
heaviest forest antelope

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Conservation Status:

Near Threatened

  • Horns can grow up to 40 in. long
  • Population has declined 20% over three generations
  • There are 2 subspecies of bongo

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Tragelaphus eurycerus


500 to nearly 900 lb.


50 in. at the shoulder

Life span

Up to 19 years in captivity


Dense forest




About 9 months


Humans, hyenas, leopards, lions


Where do bongos live?

Bongos are only found in rain forests with dense undergrowth across tropical Africa. Specifically, they are found in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan.


Tags: Benin, Kenya, Niger, West/Central Africa, Congo, Cameroon View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a bongo?

The bongo is the largest and heaviest forest antelope. It has an auburn or chestnut coat with 10 to 15 vertical white stripes running down its sides. Females are usually more brightly colored than males. Both males and females have spiraled, lyre-shaped horns. The large ears are believed to sharpen hearing, and the distinctive coloration may help bongos identify one another in their dark forest habitats. Bongos have no special secretion glands, so they rely less on scent to find one another than do other similar antelopes.

Behavior & Diet

Bongos have a craving for salt.

Like other antelopes, bongos are herbivorous browsers that feed on leaves, bushes, vines, bark, grasses, roots, cereals, shrubs, and fruits. They also require salt in their diet and will visit natural salt licks.

They scare easily.

Bongos are timid and easily frightened. They will run away after a scare—at considerable speed—and seek cover, where they stand still and alert with their backs to the disturbance. The bongo’s hindquarters are less conspicuous than the forequarters, and from this position, the animal can quickly flee.

Bongos are mostly solitary.

Adult males of a similar size or age seem to try to avoid one another, but occasionally, they will meet and spar with their horns in a ritualized manner. Sometimes, serious fights will take place, but they are usually discouraged by visual displays, in which the males bulge their necks, roll their eyes, and hold their horns in a vertical position while slowly pacing back and forth in front of the other male. Younger mature males most often remain solitary, although they sometimes join up with an older male. They seek out females only at mating time. When they are with a herd of females, males do not coerce them or try to restrict their movements, as do some other antelopes.

Females bear calves in specific areas.

Female bongos use traditional calving grounds restricted to certain areas. The newborn calf lies out in hiding for a week or more, receiving short visits by the mother to suckle it. Calves grow rapidly and are quickly able to accompany their mothers in the nursery herds.

  • Bongo Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Bongo Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Bongo Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Bongo Craig R. Sholley

Natural predators take their toll on bongo populations.

Young bongos are vulnerable to pythons, leopards, and hyenas. Lions have also been reported to kill bongos.

Today, the bongo’s biggest threat is humans.

Communities living near forests often hunt bongos with dogs and set snares for them. Large-scale and continuous hunting has completely eliminated bongos in some areas.


Our solutions to protecting the bongo:

  • Set aside space for wildlife.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with governments and villages to designate wildlife corridors—large swaths of land that bongos can use to roam freely and safely from one park, or country, to another. Corridors link protected areas and allow wildlife to follow rains or travel to their calving grounds.

  • Provide agricultural training.

    AWF engages communities living near wildlife to create sustainable practices for agricultural and settlement growth by providing training on best practices and incentivizing conservation agriculture in exchange for community members allowing local wildlife to live peacefully near their communities without encroaching on their territories. 


Will you show the bongo your support?

With your help, AWF can work on critical initiatives like setting aside land for wildlife corridors and providing education for sustainable agriculture. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the survival of this nearly threatened species.

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