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...
Jul 27, 2016

Bonobo Girl Power

Female bonobos from the Ekalakala group
Female bonobos from the Ekalakala group

Over the last few months, our research team at Kokolopori has been busy studying two habituated bonobo groups. Conducted under the supervision of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the project aims to document group composition, feeding ecology and behavior of the Nkokoalong and Ekalakala bonobos.

Led by Dr. Martin Surbeck, the team, which includes seven of the best trackers at Kokolopori, has been working hard to identify the bonobos in the two groups, assigning each one a name. They are also being creative with their naming conventions: musician names for members of the Nkokoalongo group and colors for Ekalakala. Among the notables are: Bowie, Marley, Papa Wemba, and Madonna!

The project is already producing some intriguing glimpses into the lives of wild bonobos, while confirming behaviors observed by other researchers. The groups have been moving through the forest and nesting near each other for the last couple of weeks, providing ample opportunity for our researchers to observe how two groups interact. Just last week, the team noted that a female from each group has switched to the opposite group.

Migration between groups is common once female bonobos reach adolescence. A recently published long-term study of bonobos at neighboring Wamba may provide insight into how female bonobo behavior facilitates this phenomenon. Nahoko Tokuyama and Takeshi Furuichi of Kyoto University found that older female bonobos will help younger, unrelated females who are being aggressively targeted by males. This protective behavior presumably allows new, younger females to join a group without the threat of being bullied by the male members. They hypothesize that this behavior also helps to form bonobos’ matriarchal social structure.

Our research program is already giving us insight into bonobo group dynamics and female alliances. We are excited about its potential to contribute to the broader scientific and conservation communities. Your support makes this work, and more, possible. As always, thank you for standing with us!

Members of our research team
Members of our research team

Links:

Apr 29, 2016

Building a Legacy of Bonobo Research at Kokolopori

Martin Surbeck and Leonard Nkanga Lolima
Martin Surbeck and Leonard Nkanga Lolima

BCI President Sally Jewell Coxe has just returned from a trip to Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve. The main objective of this trip was to establish a new research project in partnership with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Under the guidance of Dr. Martin Surbeck—a primatologist who has previously studied bonobos at Lui Kotale near Salonga National Park—the project aims to gain greater insight into how individual bonobos and their groups interact.

In early March, Sally and Martin, along with the rest of our team made a two week journey up the Maringa River, from BCI’s regional office in Mbandaka to Kokolopori. Along the way, they were treated by the sight of hippos in the river! Once the team was settled in Yetee, headquarters for our conservation programs at the reserve, they began process of setting up a forest research camp and orienting local tracking teams (led by longtime supervisor Leonard Nkanga Lolima) for the project.

The Yetee forest is home to two habituated bonobo groups (Ekalakala and Nkokoalongo), offering a rare opportunity to observe bonobo groups interacting in the wild. The team was fortunate to witness the two groups meeting and interacting while the camp was being constructed. This bodes well for the kinds of data and insights that the Max Planck research team will be able to collect.

This project would not be possible without the years of investment in the communities of Kokolopori and the research projects that have come before. Through the generosity of our donors, we have been able to train, equip, and employ local trackers to monitor bonobos in their forests. This foundation of local knowledge has been instrumental in attracting the interest of researchers, like Dr. Deborah Moore, who conducted a pilot study at the reserve two years ago.

Martin is enthusiastic about working with local people, and is keenly aware of the importance of local involvement in conservation within communities. He plans to collaborate with Congolese students in his research, to train a new generation of conservation advocates and ensure that the knowledge gained from his research benefits the Congolese people.

Ultimately, the more we can learn about bonobos, the more we can learn about how to protect them. We continue to look forward to the promise of this project and its benefits for both bonobos and our community partners. As always, thank you for standing with us!

P.S. If you were wondering about the orphaned bonobo that was rescued over Christmas…Sally also paid a visit to him at the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary. Bikoro is thriving and has become quite a playful bonobo! He is in the capable hands of the “mamans,” who care for infants until they are ready to be integrated with the other bonobos at the sanctuary.

Bonobo relaxing at Kokolopori, spring 2016
Bonobo relaxing at Kokolopori, spring 2016
Bikoro with his "maman" and new friends
Bikoro with his "maman" and new friends
Feb 2, 2016

A Christmas Rescue Story

Bikoro in Mbandaka with a new friend, Sally
Bikoro in Mbandaka with a new friend, Sally

While most of us were winding down 2015 and spending time with friends and family, our team in the Congo was reminded that poaching doesn’t take time off. Our longtime colleague, Dr. Mwanza Ndunda (also known as Mpaka Bonobo, or "Grandpa Bonobo"), received a tip that a man was selling a baby bonobo in Bikoro, near our Lac Tumba site. Richard Eonga, bureau chief of BCI's Mbandaka office, and Dr. Norbert Mbangi, a Congolese primatologist who has worked on the frontlines for two decades, raced to Bikoro to rescue the baby. They encountered several difficulties on the path, including unpassable roads and floods, but they pressed on and confiscated the bonobo with help from the local police force. Our dedicated employees gave up much of the Christmas holiday with their families in order to stay in the office and care for our new friend.

Malnourished, stressed, and injured, the orphan quickly bonded with our staff. He was named Bikoro after the town where he was rescued, and affectionately nicknamed Noël in honor of the holiday. Bikoro took a particular liking to our dedicated team member Dieudonne Bahati Mwanza. Over the next week, Bikoro recuperated at our office while arrangements were made to transport him to the safety of the Lola Ya Bonobo orphanage near Kinshasa. He ate well and gained strength in his new surroundings—and even began climbing trees in the yard.

On New Year’s Eve, Bikoro was flown from Mbandaka to Kinshasa via Air Kasai. BCI’s Kinshasa team met him and he was transferred to the care of our friends at the sanctuary. A veterinarian assessed the orphan, estimating that he is approximately 4 months old and in otherwise good health. As a precaution, he has been placed in temporary quarantine, in order to assure the health of the other orphans at Lola. Soon, our new friend will have a chance at a happy and safe life with new bonobo companions at the sanctuary.

This story reminds us that, more than anything, we need to put an end to the hunting and selling of bonobos. For every orphan rescued, others have been killed, including the baby's mother. It is urgent that we provide greater support for our field teams near Lac Tumba, and throughout the Bonobo Peace Forest. This bonobo was rescued thanks to a tip from a community member and thanks to our network on the ground. It goes to show how crucial our work is, and how it requires participation and support from so many people. It takes a village—and then some!

As always, thank you for your support. Let’s make 2016 the best year ever for bonobos!

Bikoro and some much-needed nourishment
Bikoro and some much-needed nourishment
BCI
BCI's Dieudonne Bahati Mwanza with Bikoro
Strong enough to climb a tree
Strong enough to climb a tree
 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $20
    give
  • $25
    give
  • $30
    give
  • $35
    give
  • $40
    give
  • $50
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $200
    give
  • $20
    each month
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $30
    each month
    give
  • $35
    each month
    give
  • $40
    each month
    give
  • $50
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $200
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Bonobo Conservation Initiative

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Bonobo Conservation Initiative on GreatNonProfits.org.
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.