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Zoo Happenings

Bunches of Bouncing Baby Bongo at the Virginia Zoo

And a cute crowned crane, too!bongo baby face

Norfolk, VA (SEPT. 22, 2009) - They may be endangered in the wild, but bongo are thriving at the Virginia Zoo. Two of these endangered African forest antelope were born at the Zoo in the last few weeks – plus, we are expecting another any day now. And apparently, the bongo yard is a fertile baby nursery, because an East Africa crown crane hatched there the week of August 20th!

Female bongo Elka was born August 16 and female Jade was born August 28. “Bongo are highly endangered in their native Africa,” notes Greg Bockheim, executive director of the Zoo. “So properly managed breeding programs are important conservation actions taken to protect the species for the future.”

2 bongoThe Zoo’s bongo herd includes adult male Thunder, adult females Esi, Juni and Betty, as well as two juvenile female bongo born in the fall of 2008, Eva and Bella. These calm animals are strikingly beautiful with their bright chestnut coat, vivid white stripes and spiral horns. As endangered animals, the birth of the new calves marks another success for the Zoo’s participation in the Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSP is a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that manages breeding programs in accredited zoos to ensure healthy, genetically sound matches that help promote the survival of endangered animals.  The Virginia Zoo is part of 18 national and international SSP programs.

Bongo are nearly extinct in Africa’s Mount Kenya, due to hunting, poaching and habitat destruction. In 2004, 18 captive bred bongo, including a male born at the Virginia Zoo, were flown to African as part of the Bongo Repatriation to Mount Kenya Project.   “The goal of this project is to rehabilitate these bongo on a protected preserve and prepare future generations to truly live in the wild,” explains Bockheim.

Staff will work with the AZA to determine the best future homes for calves born at the Zoo – whether it is the preserve in Africa or other zoos in this country.

East African Crowned Cranes

baby craneThe other busy parents in the bongo yard are birds! The East African crowned crane pair are parents to a chick that hatched the week of August 20. It’s too soon to tell whether it is a boy or girl, but the baby crane is a welcome addition to the bongo yard.

Although not endangered, these cranes are considered vulnerable due to habitat destruction in their native Africa. East Africa crowned cranes typically have two to three chicks at a time, and both parents spend time incubating the eggs and then rearing the chicks. Chicks are able to walk soon after hatching and can fly at 10 weeks old.

East Africa crowned cranes are social and gregarious outside of the nesting season, the Zoo’s adult pair seem to enjoy watching visitors come and go in their exhibit area and the insects attracted by the growing herd of bongo. Crowned cranes are the only cranes that roost in trees, and they are famous for an energetic courtship dance that involves bobbing, flapping wings and bows. 

Come see Elka, Jade, and the baby crane, plus the other 350 animals at the Virginia Zoo daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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