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...
Jun 10, 2013

Embodying the Bonobo's Spirit of Cooperation

Supplies on their trip from Kinshasa to Kokolopori
Supplies on their trip from Kinshasa to Kokolopori

Eco-guards and trackers are the first line of defense for bonobos in the Congolese rainforest. The remote communities where these essential protectors and their families live are far from any modern medical facility. They have little to no access to any form of healthcare or even basic medicines. To address this issue BCI, along with local partner Vie Sauvage, has developed the pilot “Bonobo Clinic” program to provide essential medical care to people who within the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve.

Recently BCI, in collaboration with its partners and other donors, provided much needed medical supplies to the clinic.  For anyone living in a more developed area of the world, it can be hard to imagine the challenges of transporting cargo to a remote area of the rainforest. Several steps are involved, and the efforts of many people and organizations are required to get the cargo where it needs to go.

Drawing upon the cooperative nature of the bonobo, BCI worked with a corporate sponsor, regional airlines and local partners to acquire and transport medical supplies from the capital of Kinshasa to the village of Yalokole, site of the Bonobo Clinic. A grant from the Orange Foundation  enabled BCI to purchase the provisions in Kinshasa. CAA Airlines (Compagnie African d’Aviation) generously donated the shipping to Mbandaka, the site of BCI’s provincial office. From there, Aviation Sans Frontières (ASF) transported the supplies by bush plane to Djolu, at discounted rate. In Djolu, members of BCI’s partner organization Vie Sauvage recovered the shipment from the bush plane and loaded it into our well-traveled Land Cruiser. Then, they took the daylong journey to the health clinic in Yalokole, where the shipment–which included antibiotics, antimalarial and antiparasitic drugs, syringes, bandages, and mosquito nets–was gratefully received!

By following the example of bonobos, we were able to work together to ensure the health of the members of our team who are at the front lines in protecting these peaceful apes. As always, none of our work would be possible without your support. Thank you for all that you do, and please remember to spread the word!

Kokolopori resident visiting the Bonobo Clinic
Kokolopori resident visiting the Bonobo Clinic
Mar 13, 2013

Make Your Gift Mean 30% More on March 13

Bonobo Profile
Bonobo Profile

Thank you so much for supporting our bonobo conservation efforts through GlobalGiving. With your help, we are changing lives—human and bonobo alike—in the Congo rainforest. Thanks to caring people like you, bright Congolese students have educational opportunities, Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve residents receive lifesaving medical care, and trackers and eco-guards can feed their families--earning their income not from hunting bonobos, but from protecting them. Right now, a baby bonobo is being born in Kokolopori, or Sankuru, or Lilungu, and she has a brighter future because you took the time to reach out and lend a hand.

Now you can make your gift go 30% further. On Wednesday, March 13, starting at 9AM EDT, GlobalGiving will match donations at 30% up to $1,000 per donor per project! There is $50,000 available in matching funds and matching will last until funds run out or 11:59 pm EDT.

Think about what 30% can do. If you give $100, you can pay an eco-guard’s salary for two months. The extra $30 can provide essential equipment, like binoculars and headlamps. Every dollar helps, and on March 13, it helps 30% more.

 You make our work possible. On behalf of the bonobos, thank you.

Young bonobo relaxing
Young bonobo relaxing
Feb 19, 2013

Bonobo Rescue in Boma

Mme. Rebecca with Boma
Mme. Rebecca with Boma

Thank you for supporting us in our mission to protect bonobos in their natural habitat. In previous updates, you’ve learned how your generosity has allowed us to impact the lives of bonobos on a large scale. Today, we’d like to bring you the story of one special bonobo and how the combined efforts of organizations, individuals, and donors like you helped save her life.

Orphan bonobos are all too common, a devastating side effect of the bushmeat trade. These young bonobos, too small to be sold as meat, are often illegally sold as pets. Ian Redmond, OBE, a wildlife consultant for Born Free Foundation, recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate illegal trade in great apes and other endangered species. BCI’s Evelyne Samu joined him on his journey to the Bas Congo region to visit the port at Boma. It was here that they learned of an 18-month-old orphan bonobo.

Boma’s port is a flurry of activity, filled with ships carrying all manner of wares. The sailors typically stay on their ships, relying on local men (known as “washmen”) who paddle canoes between the ships and shore to ferry goods and information. When interviewed by Ian and Evelyne, the washmen reported that they had seen a large variety of items, including illegal goods like ivory. Ian and Evelyne asked if they had seen any great apes—“mokomboso.” This Lingala word literally translates to “like human.” At this point, Ian and Evelyne were told that a local woman named Mme. Rebecca was keeping a “gorilla” as a pet for her children. Upon further investigation, they learned that the family was willing to sell them the ape for $450.

Ian and Evelyne visited the family under the guise of being interested in purchasing the ape. Rebecca introduced them to Mireille, the “chimpanzee” she had gotten as a playmate for her young daughters. Ian and Evelyne quickly realized that Mireille was neither a gorilla nor a chimpanzee but, in fact, a young bonobo. This orphan bonobo originally came from Kikwit in the Bandundu province. The bushmeat trade is rampant in that area, and her mother was likely killed and sold for meat.  For every orphan bonobo, there is at least one—and sadly, usually more—bonobos killed.  The illegal sale of apes as pets is also common practice. When asked if her family would be sad to lose Mireille, Rebecca told Ian and Evelyne that it would be no problem to get another ape. Her report is a sad illustration of the fact that, as Ian says, there is “clearly both a supply and a demand for baby apes, and that the indications are that almost anywhere an investigator starts to dig, he or she will find them for sale.” However, Rebecca told Evelyne that she herself did not purchase Mireille; she took Mireille from relatives in Kikwit a few weeks ago. Mireille had seemed ill and sad, and Rebecca wanted her to have a better home.

After this visit, there was discussion about how to proceed.  It would seem simplest to buy Mireille to get her to Lola ya Bonobo, the orphanage in Kinshasa, immediately. However, this course of action would be illegal and only stimulate the pet trade they were trying to stop. The only solution in these situations is to contact authorities for proper legal confiscation. The process can be long and complicated, involving legal fees, veterinary fees, and a great deal of both paperwork and logistics. Everyone worked together to make the rescue happen quickly. Born Free secured initial funds, BCI provided transportation and logistical support, and Lola ya Bonobo prepared a new home for the baby bonobo. The next day, officers from the Ministry of the Environment visited Rebecca and her family and explained the situation.

Bonobos are deeply sensitive and highly social creatures. In order to thrive, they need a very specific environment and the company of other bonobos. For these reasons, among many others, even loving human homes are not the best place for bonobos. To allay any concern that the family had over the fate of their “third daughter,” Ian and Evelyne took the whole family to visit Lola ya Bonobo so they could see the sanctuary for themselves. Through their interactions with Ian and Evelyne, Rebecca and her family learned more about bonobos and why it is illegal to buy or sell them. Ian remarked that the family will likely now “be allies who will help us close down the Matadi trade” after this eye-opening experience.

Mireille is now living safely in the sanctuary, where she is known as “Boma” in honor of the town where she was rescued. Through the collaboration of many people and organizations, Boma is getting a second chance at a happy life.  This rescue is cause for celebration, but, sadly, it is the exception rather than the rule. For every rescued bonobo, there are countless others whose stories end quite differently.

Eco-guards and trackers are the first line of defense for bonobos like Boma. With proper training and equipment, these brave individuals can help protect against poaching and keep the forest safe for bonobos. We can do more than rescue orphans--let’s work together to prevent the tragedies that create orphans. Thank you for your participation in this vital cause.

Ian with Boma
Ian with Boma
At the sanctuary
At the sanctuary
The children say farewell
The children say farewell

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