It has now been 12 months since The Aspinall Foundation donated 10 camera traps and memory cards to The Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP) in Kenya – and they have sent us a fantastic update.
“With the Bongo Surveillance Project’s (BSP) persistent campaigning, a continuous conservation educational programme and specialist monitoring, this has undoubtedly highlighted the status of the Mountain Bongo (critically endangered) on an international and local basis, over the last 10 years. It has most likely also been a key factor in preventing the Mountain Bongo from extinction in the wild, in Kenya. The critical activity carried out by a Mike Prettejohn, Project Manager and a small team of expert Kenyan surveillance trackers has been widely recognised by KWS/KFS and the bongo stakeholders. The early spoor /dung information collected by BSP and subsequently used for DNA analysis by Cardiff University from 2008, helped form the information to validate the IUCN critically endangered status. In summary, from this tracking activity bongo numbers were proven low and in some Kenyan forests bongo in the wild were already extinct (Cherigani).
During 2016 - an evaluation of the 1000+ camera trap photographs collected mostly up to 2015, has been undertaken by Peter Comport, volunteer for Bongo Surveillance Project, to identify, individuals. This has been no easy task, as camera trap photographs, are often night photographs and only “part” of. Camera Trap technology has certainly changed and improved over time, and in the early days, this equipment was not available to all areas of forest where bongo were surviving.
The practical observations used for individual/sex identification has been with the support of the Howletts “bongo” team, notably Joel who has many years’ experience of working closely with bongo. This vital “first hand” information has helped provide an identification process for the BSP. The BSP are the only organisation with the support of KWS, who have consistently carried out this this monitoring, over the last decade.
Benefits of the camera traps include: - Observations of life in a wild bongo group, a 15 minute quality video – some of the “rarest video” accomplished due to the small numbers of bongo surviving in the wild, and increased profile which has helped the wider community. 200-500 people are benefitting from BSP’s water project, it has been noted that sickness has reduced through this simple water instillation.
Other benefits: Camera Traps recorded a variety of wildlife being monitored in this zone. Examples of the wildlife, yellow back duiker (rare), waterbuck, colobus, bushbuck, blue monkey, giant forest hog (rare), wart hog, red forest duiker, leopard. There are no elephant present in this particular forest therefore, there are no trails, and forest is low hanging and dense. Trees – indigenous varieties such as olive, cedar and podacarpus.
The Aberdares – SALIENT / Honi group (where the donated camera traps are placed) are growing and it is likely their numbers are now estimated at over 50 (39 adults 15 calves). During the last 2-3 months, we are now aware that as this Bongo group are extending they are potentially being seen in a wider location across the Salient. A recent report has been given from the historic Ark hotel, to say a Bongo, has been viewed on the far side of the Ark waterhole, in daylight. It was the 1980’s since bongo were present near the Ark.”
We are thrilled with this report from the BSP and we are incredibly proud to have played a part in their success – and ultimately the conservation of the Critically Endangered Mountain Bongo in the wild.