Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Celebrates Two Decades Anniversary

It’s a special year for the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy as it marks two decades of dedicated conservation efforts. With a primary focus on safeguarding endangered species and their habitats, the Conservancy has achieved remarkable milestones.

Notably, its outstanding work in preserving the endangered Mountain Bongo Antelope through a successful recovery and rewilding program deserves recognition.

The journey began in 2024 with the importation of 18 Mountain Bongos from various zoos across North America to the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) in Nanyuki.

This initiative, famously known as the Bongo Repatriation Project, kickstarted a breeding and rewilding program aimed at establishing a resilient population of Mountain Bongos in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service, and with the backing of the Kenyan Government.

The importation was prompted by the alarming decline of the Mountain Bongo population in the wild, which had dwindled to less than 100 individuals.

Fragmented geographic segments in Mount Kenya and Aberdares limited the species’ natural recovery. Hence, the importation served as the cornerstone for the successful breeding and rewilding of the Mountain Bongo, a success story that endures to this day.

The Conservancy’s conservation efforts trace back to 1964 when the Kenyan Government, alarmed by the declining Mountain Bongo numbers, collaborated with Don Hunt, the Director of Mount Kenya Game Ranch and founder of MKWC.

Together, they proposed sending Mountain Bongos to American zoos as a safeguard against extinction. This proposal led to the exportation of 36 Bongos to the USA, which later became the founding animals for breeding programs in American zoos. In 2004, 18 Mountain Bongos were repatriated from the USA to initiate the breeding and rewilding program at MKWC.

Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy
A ranger has a closer look at the Mountain Bongos courtesy@Bongo Conservancy

A significant milestone in the Conservancy’s history was the establishment of the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary in 2022, the first of its kind globally.

Located at the foothills of Mount Kenya, this sanctuary saw the release of 10 Mountain Bongos in its inaugural year. Today, with the birth of three calves, the sanctuary is home to 13 Mountain Bongos, showcasing the success of rewilding efforts.

Key Achievements:

  • Bongo Generations: It took four generations of breeding from the initial importation to the release of Mountain Bongos into the Mawingu Sanctuary. MKWC now stands as a global leader in breeding and rewilding Mountain Bongos, contributing significantly to the Kenyan Government’s Mountain Bongo National Recovery Action Plan.
  • Ecological Research and Monitoring: The Conservancy emphasizes research to inform management decisions and hosts students for research studies. Collaborations, including one with the Kenya Space Agency, leverage technology for conservation.
  • Habitat Restoration: Over 40,000 indigenous trees have been planted to restore the Mountain Bongo’s natural habitat, combating deforestation and promoting biodiversity.
  • Animal Orphanage: MKWC’s Animal Orphanage provides refuge and rehabilitation for injured or orphaned animals, with a focus on returning them to the wild.
  • Community Education: MKWC engages communities in conservation through hands-on training and educational programs, welcoming thousands of students annually.
  • Partnerships: Joining the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and collaborating with the Kenya Space Agency signifies MKWC’s commitment to global conservation efforts and technological advancements in wildlife management.

Dr. Robert Aruho, Head of Conservancy at MKWC, emphasizes the importance of collective efforts in conserving endangered species like the Mountain Bongo.

Looking ahead, MKWC plans various events to commemorate its 20th anniversary, including the annual Trek for the Bongo in September 2024, inviting hikers and community members worldwide to summit Mount Kenya, the Mountain Bongo’s natural habitat.

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