Honolulu Zoo’s new bongo antelopes delight visitors

Bongo antelopes at Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo is welcoming a species that has never been in Hawaii before. The bongo antelope is a near-threatened species originally from Africa. Last week, a male and female, both eight months old, arrived from a Texas farm. On Wednesday morning, Honolulu Zoo gave its two new residents a chance to roam their exhibit for the first time.

“The cheetahs and the lions are like pacing and sniffing the air and I am like, there’s something going on over there, there’s gotta be something new,” said Waikiki resident Tra Venaglia.

The antelope can grow up to 900 pounds, and the zoo hopes these two will produce baby antelope.

“They’ve been threatened by mostly habitat loss and agricultural development,” said zookeeper Rhoda Alexander. “They have prehensile tongues, so they can reach way up to the top of the trees. They are the largest forest dwelling animal.”

Getting animals to the islands takes a lot of preparation and cash, but last year Honolulu Zoo only had $2,000 to get new animals, so it had to get creative.

“You have to get through all the paperwork,” said assistant zoo director Baird Flemming. “You have to find an organization that wants to trade with you.”

More than 800 animals call the 42-acre Honolulu Zoo home, but there are also some exhibits that are empty. The future of the old elephant exhibit hasn’t been decided yet and plans for a brand new reptile and amphibian exhibit are in the works.

“We do have to constantly change things up and part of that is for the benefit of the animal too,” Flemming said. “We are literally the most isolated zoo in the world, so when it comes to pick up some of these guys, you really have to plan it out well.”

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