Grand Rapids zoo unveils its new baby bongo antelope

9-day-old baby Uzuri and her mother, Makena, on Saturday. Christian Grow photo

9-day-old baby Uzuri and her mother, Makena, on Saturday. Christian Grow photo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo presented its 9-day-old mountain bongo baby girl to the world for the first time Saturday.

The mountain bongo exists only in remote protected forests of central Kenya and is the largest of the forest antelopes.

The baby, named Uzuri, meaning beauty in Swahili, was born during the early hours of Aug. 25.

“This is cause for celebration.” said Peter D’Arienzo, the zoo’s chief executive officer. “This subspecies of bongo is critically endangered so a new addition is beneficial to their future both in the wild and in zoos.”

Uzuri weighed in at 29.7 pounds, slightly smaller than her brother, Neo, who was born to the same two parents in December 2014. Both the mother, Makena, and father, Jasper, are 8 years old.

The Grand Rapids zoo works with other accredited institutions throughout the U.S. to collectively manage all the mountain bongos as one single population as part of a Species Survival Plan.

Uzuri’s birth is particularly important because the SSP is hoping for more females in the population for future breeding to enhance the genetic vitality of the population.

The bongo coat is mahogany with cream colored vertical stripes that help camouflage them in the trees and grasses. The color of their coat runs off in the rain, but it never fades. Both the male and female have large spiraled horns.

Most bongo calves are born in December or January.

John Ball Zoo is located at 1300 Fulton Ave., one mile west of downtown Grand Rapids. It is open the entire Labor Day weekend from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

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