[UPDATED] On the Road to Recovery! Jax the bongo’s tale.

You may have heard over the last few months that Jax, our 3-year-old male eastern mountain bongo, was battling a recurrent infection in his horns from playing too roughly in the dirt. The Virginia Zoo recently partnered with North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Hospital team to perform a CT scan on Jax, which allowed the team to pinpoint the spread of the infection. The decision was made to amputate part of Jax’s horns to prevent infection from recurring, given that treating recurrent infections can pose a risk to an animal’s health and wellbeing, as antibiotics and other pain medications that are not meant for long-term use. Together with The Virginia Zoo’s vets, NC State specialists in exotic and ruminant medicine, anesthesia and radiology treated Jax’s infection and trimmed his horns to a safe level for antelope antics.

How did this happen? 

Jax loves to rub his horns on different materials throughout his habitat. While this is normal behavior, Jax rubbed so much that the inner canal of the horn became exposed, which can easily get infected. In addition to rubbing his horns, Jax also loves digging in the dirt with his horns, which introduced dirt and bacteria into the center of his horn tips, resulting in the infection.

How was Jax treated? 

During the first procedure, Jax was anesthetized and the inside of his horn tips were surgically debrided and flushed. The sites were then infused with local antibiotics, and he was treated with anti-inflammatory medications and systemic antibiotics. Jax initially responded well to the treatment, but unfortunately the infection came back. The horn tips were surgically treated again, but the severity of the progression of the disease to his horns and his decrease response to therapy indicated that his horn tips would need to be surgically removed. That surgery was performed to prevent the infection from spreading all the way down his horn and into his sinuses. By removing the damaged horn tips, this risk of reinfection is dramatically reduced, giving him the best chance for a long and healthy life!

What does the future hold for Jax?

Jax is not longer experiencing pain in his horns since the infection has been cleared, and he is recovering nicely. You may notice medical adhesive on his horns the next time you see him on exhibit — these caps will fall off over time as the horn heals. The horn tips will not grow back, but the tip of the horn will develop scar tissue, like a scab forms a scar on the skin, that will prevent the inner horn from getting infected. Because the changes to his horns are overall only cosmetic, he can still perform just about all natural behaviors!

What is an eastern mountain bongo? 

Eastern mountain bongos use their contrasting stripes to camouflage and their spiraling horns to push through underbrush in their dark rainforest homes. Their large ears and noses are not only cute but give them excellent senses as well. They are considered critically endangered with population estimates ranging between 100-200 individuals in their native habitat. This species decline is mostly attributed to habitat loss. Animals that live in the rainforests of Africa are at risk due to a number of reasons, including the mining of minerals used in electronics like our cell phones. You can reduce waste and conserve rainforests by donating your old or broken electronics to Eco-Cell, who will recycle it and donate back to participating zoos like ours. You can find our bin out front of the Zoo on the side by the gift shop before you enter the gates! SUSTAINABILITY – Virginia Zoo