Bonobo Conservation Initiative

Our Mission is to protect bonobos (Pan paniscus), preserve their tropical rainforest habitat, and empower local communities in the Congo Basin. By working with local Congolese people through cooperative conservation and community development programs, and by shaping national and international policy, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) is establishing new protected areas and leading efforts to safeguard bonobos wherever they are found. The Bonobo Peace Forest (BPF) is the guiding vision of BCI: a connected network of community-based reserves and conservation concessions, supported by sustainable development. The Peace Forest provides protection for bonobos and other species in the Congo...
May 7, 2015

Exciting developments springing up at Kokolopori

Bonobos at Kokolopori, April 2015
Bonobos at Kokolopori, April 2015

The last few months have been very busy at the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve! Just as spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere, new activity and life has emerged at the reserve.

In April, the BCI team visited the reserve and brought some special guests, including:

  • a scientist from a prominent research institution, who is interested in establishing a long-term bonobo research program at Kokolopori, and
  • representatives from Wildlife Protection Solutions, an organization which integrates technology systems with anti-poaching and habitat protection programs

We look forward to developing partnerships with both institutions, as they will better enable us to protect and understand bonobos while bringing support to our hard-working monitoring teams. Stay tuned for more developments on this front!

While at Kokolopori, the BCI team also kept busy with our local partners: delivering much needed equipment to our tracking teams, planning for an animal husbandry program for reserve residents with our agronomist Marcel Falay, and meeting with regional partners to plan for further development of the Bonobo Peace Forest—our network of community-managed reserves in the bonobo habitat.

Finally, saving the best for last, we are happy to report that our bonobos continue to thrive. A baby bonobo was born into one of our habituated bonobo groups while the team was at the reserve!

We are hopeful as we look forward to the promise of new life, new livelihood programs, and new partnerships at Kokolopori. Thank you for standing with us and helping us to carry this momentum forward!

Marcel Falay, agronomist for BCI
Marcel Falay, agronomist for BCI
Feb 5, 2015

Losing our Shirts?!

BCI logistics manager on the way to Lilungu
BCI logistics manager on the way to Lilungu

Bonobos are humankind’s closest relatives, highly advanced, sharing almost 99% of our DNA. Occasionally, they remind us of just how much we have in common…in the most comical of ways.

Recently, a funny thing happened at Lilungu. One day, a local villager was out tending his fields. He took off his shirt and his hat and hung them on a branch to air out as he toiled in the hot sun. A bonobo snuck out of the forest and snatched the man’s clothes! As the man took notice, the bonobo bandit darted into the trees. Swooshing through the canopy, he dropped the man’s hat, but kept the shirt! For the next several days, our tracking teams observed the bonobos, playing “keep-away” with shirt, and wrapping it around their neck or waist like a scarf. We’ve encountered bonobos pilfering pineapples and even cooking pots at Lilungu, but this latest heist is truly exceptional! Needless to say, the shirt was lost to the bonobos, so BCI happily provided the gentleman with a replacement.

Earlier this winter, a BCI expedition team visited Lilungu to reinforce the bonobo monitoring and protection programs at this important site, where we have been working in close partnership with local communities since 2005. It is a critical anchor in the large corridor of community-managed protection we are creating -- the Bonobo Peace Forest. Lilungu is also one of few locations where bonobos are habituated to humans and can be readily observed. This mission brought much-needed support to bonobo tracking teams and will help local Congolese partners to secure official protection for their forest.

We are proud to have forged strong, long-term partnerships with Congolese communities. The simple gesture of giving someone the shirt off our back can go a long way in fostering these relationships and ultimately, the success of our conservation programs. The generosity of our donors is always a crucial element, making all of our progress possible.

Thank you for standing with us!

Our tracking team at Lilungu
Our tracking team at Lilungu
Nov 6, 2014

Bonus Day Thanks and Our Three Musketeers

Bofangi, Ndombasi and Afelende at Kokolopori
Bofangi, Ndombasi and Afelende at Kokolopori

First off, let us offer a heartfelt thank you to our generous Global Giving supporters. You helped us make October’s Bonus Day one of our most successful ever! Thanks to your donations, our project ranking was elevated to Superstar status, affording us greater opportunities for exposure to corporate donors, features in GlobalGiving’s communications, and opportunities for training.

Support from our donors over the years has helped us lay the groundwork for our Bonobo Peace Forest—an integrated network of grassroots, community-managed reserves in the bonobo habitat. The activities initiated at our pilot site, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, have “gone viral”—inspiring three neighboring communities (Lingomo, Nkokolombo, and Likongo) to establish their own reserves. We have dubbed the dynamic leaders of these communities “Les Trois Mousquetaires” or “The Three Musketeers.” At Lingomo, Cosmas Bofangi manages conservation programs through the NGO Conservation of the Resources of Lingomo. Roger Afelende, founder of the Association for Conservation of Bonobos in the Source of Lomako, leads community conservation efforts at Nkokolombo. Finally, at Likongo, Jean Gaston Ndombasi—a provincial Environmental Inspector—heads the NGO Debout Likongo pour la Conservation et le Développement.

These biodiversity-rich sites are situated near the territorial capital of Djolu and are particularly vulnerable to logging and the bushmeat trade. For that reason, the hard work that residents have put into protecting them is all the more urgent and commendable. The energy and devotion of Ndombasi and his community has recently paid off: just this September, Likongo received an arreté from the Ministry of the Environment, signed by the Prime Minister, granting 50,000 hectares as a community forest. This is an important step toward securing greater protection for the area. 

Earlier this year, Bofangi, Afelende, and Ndombasi traveled to Kokolopori to meet with BCI President Sally Jewell Coxe, our team and other partners in the field. The meetings offered us the chance to talk in-depth about the future and how we can improve the odds for bonobo populations. One of the top priorities will be to map the limits of all three forests, which in actuality form one large forest bloc; this will allow the three communities to coordinate their strategies and pursue other goals such as expanding legal protections like the arreté granted to Likongo. It will also support the creation of more habitat corridors for bonobos to travel safely through different regions. Supporting animal husbandry and agricultural programs in the region will also help to mitigate the illegal hunting of bonobos for bushmeat markets.

We at BCI are so thrilled to work in partnership with our wonderful Three Musketeers and their communities. We are proud of the Peace Forest that our loyal supporters have helped create to protect the bonobos, and yet we are even more gratified to see our strategies inspiring others. As Deni Béchard uncovered in Empty Hands, Open Arms, the true measure of our program’s success lies in its self-replication, as our model spreads to protect more bonobos and more rainforest. With enough support, our successful conservation strategies can truly achieve their promise now and for many years to come.

Thank you for standing with us!

Thank you for your support!
Thank you for your support!

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