Pre-reintroduction Assessment Of Diet Suitability And Potential Anthropogenic Threats To The Mountain Bongo (tragelaphus Eurycerus Isaaci) In Mount Kenya Forest
The mountain bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci) is a critically endangered antelope, found only in Kenya. To save the subspecies from extinction, re-introduction of a captive male bongo group from Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) to Mount Kenya Forest (MKF) was proposed. The Proposed Bongo Sanctuary (PBS) in the forest and the captive mountain bongo habitat at MKWC were compared for vegetation structure and composition, bongo food availability at the sanctuary was determined and potential anthropogenic threats to a released population assessed. It was hypothesized that habitat quality of the PBS in terms of food availability is similar to that of MKWC; and that there are no human activities within the region which can potentially be detrimental to a re-introduced mountain bongo population. Quadrats were used to assess vegetation composition, food choice was determined using focal animal sampling and anthropogenic threats established using questionnaires. Differences in vegetation composition was analyzed using Students t-test, vegetation similarity was analyzed using Jaccard coefficient of community similarity and Chi square used to analyze anthropogenic data. In total, 218 plant species were recorded of which 63 (28.9%) species were common to both sites. The mean tree basal area between MKWC (0.15 0.02 m2/acre) and the PBS (0.23 0.03 m2/acre) had a significant difference (t=2.65, df=107, p<0.05). The wet season mean herb diversity also varied significantly (t=7.94, df=71, p<0.05) between MKWC (H’ =1.19±0.35) and the PBS (H’ =1.60±0.25). Overall the male mountain bongo diet comprised of 64 plant species of which 67% of them were recorded at the PBS during wet season and 61% during the dry season. Hunting was prevalent in the area (55%) although not significant (χ2=3.09, df=2, p>0.05) among the three communities sampled. A large proportion of respondents (97%) get firewood, charcoal, fodder and building materials from the forest. Despite male mountain bongos preferred food plants being available at the PBS, these activities remain to be a major threat to a released mountain bongo population. Strengthening conservation awareness campaigns and law enforcement is therefore required with particular emphasis on reducing logging, poaching and encroachment in MKF. Further research on diet selection inclusive of both sexes ought to be conducted prior to reintroduction.