World's largest forest antelope spotted in Uganda for the first time

October 2, 2018, 8:36 a.m.
A lowland bongo eyes a camera trap in Uganda's Semuliki National Park.
Photo: Chester Zoo

Well-placed camera traps can capture wildlife unawares, and they can also snap photos of rare animals that researchers otherwise might not know are in the region.

Take, for instance, the lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus), also called the Western bongo. Pictured above, this near-threatened antelope can be seen in images taken by a motion-activated camera trap set up by England's Chester Zoo in Uganda's Semuliki National Park. It's the first time the lowland bongo has been seen in Uganda.

"We were amazed that such a large, striking animal could go undetected for so long," Stuart Nixon, Chester Zoo's Africa Field Program coordinator, said in a statement. "But bongo are a notoriously shy and elusive species. It could be that bongo and other species are moving between Virunga National Park in DRC [Democratic Republic of he Congo] and Uganda showing just how important it is to protect the rainforests, which still connect the two countries."

A chimpanzee passes by a camera trap in Semuliki National Park A chimpanzee passes by a camera trap in Semuliki National Park. (Photo: Chester Zoo)

The bongos weren't the only animals spotted by the zoo's camera traps, either. More than 18,000 images of 32 mammal species were captured. Elephants, chimpanzees, buffalo and leopards all had their photos taken courtesy of the zoo's cameras. Other, smaller creatures, like elephant shrews and the moongoose-like common kusimanse, were also spotted.

The range of animals photographed and the presence of the lowland bongo indicates the importance of the park to maintaining the biodiversity of the region.

Another forest antelope, the cape bushback (Tragelaphus sylvaticus), saunters by a camera trap. Another forest antelope, the cape bushback (Tragelaphus sylvaticus), saunters by a camera trap. (Photo: Chester Zoo)

"The images of the mammal species of other genera captured by cameras attest to this fact," said Guma Nelson, chief warden of Kibale Conservation Area. "With its proximity to the Pleistocene refugia, there are rare and endemic species yet to be discovered if more extensive surveys are done.

"We will continue to collaborate with Chester Zoo and other partners for this noble cause in the park. The large mammals, primates and the birds have all along been the main conservation assets we focus on to protect this forest in addition to ecosystem services and resources to support community livelihood."

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