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Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest

by Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest
Freddy (left) and his mother Fitz
Freddy (left) and his mother Fitz

It seems that humans aren't the only species with helicopter parents. A recent study co-authored by BCI’s research director Dr. Martin Surbeck found that mother bonobos take active roles in helping their sons to achieve success...mating success, that is!

At his previous study site at LuiKotale, Surbeck and his fellow researchers noted that female bonobos occasionally interfered with mating couples. It wasn’t until they were able to analyze DNA from fecal samples and determine how the individual bonobos were related, that they were able to explain the behavior. It turns out that mother bonobos were helping their sons to get the best mating opportunities.  Males who stayed close to their mothers in their groups were three times more likely to produce offspring. 

At our Kokolopori site, Dr. Surbeck’s team of researchers is continuing this approach of observing bonobo behavior in conjunction with DNA collection and analysis to learn more about our primate “cousins.” This information can ultimately help us to improve conservation strategies. Of course, this work continues to be possible because of the foundation of community support and local knowledge at Kokolopori--and the generosity of our donors. 

As always, thank you for standing with us!

P.S. GlobalGiving has another Bonus Day coming up next week! On Thursday, July 18, starting at 9:00 a.m. ET, GlobalGiving will have $250K in matching funds for donations of $100 and above! It’s a great opportunity to maximize the impact of your gift!

Fitz has at least three sons to manage!
Fitz has at least three sons to manage!

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Recently rescued baby bonobo Esake
Recently rescued baby bonobo Esake

Early last week, our dedicated community partner in the Sankuru province, Héritier Mpo, was informed of an orphan bonobo seized from a bushmeat trafficker in the village of Hiekele. Héritier was dispatched to retrieve the bonobo from the police in this remote village—the same place where he had rescued another bonobo one year ago. The orphan—a female—has been named Esake after the village where she was rescued.

Esake has had a harrowing couple of weeks. We learned that hunters had shot her mother with a poisoned arrow. The hunters tracked the two bonobos for a day and a half before the mother succumbed to a slow and painful death. After being kept by the hunters for five days, Esake was sold to a bushmeat trafficker from the village of Lodja. The trafficker and his bicycle-load of bushmeat were apprehended by police. Héritier was able to negotiate Esake’s release from the police. In the course of transporting the baby bonobo, Héritier had a motorbike accident and suffered an injury to his leg. Fortunately, Esake was unharmed.

Although traumatized and weak, Esake began to regain some strength under Héritier’s care. She readily took to drinking from a bottle and eating fruit. Meanwhile, we coordinated with our friends at Lola Ya Bonobo to make arrangements to transport her to the sanctuary in Kinshasa. We are pleased to report that she arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday and is now getting adjusted to her new home!

We are fortunate to have successfully saved another bonobo life, even as one was tragically lost. This reminds us of the continuing need for community awareness about conservation, support for our on-the-ground teams, and for economic alternatives to bushmeat hunting. Bonobo rescues are not only dangerous (as it was for Héritier this time), but they are also costly—transportation is difficult and expensive in the DRC. Your generous support helps to sustain our programs and to offset these unplanned expenses.

As always, thank you for standing with us!

P.S. Want to make your donation count even more? Starting this Monday (April 15th) at 9AM Eastern, through Earth Day (April 22), GlobalGiving is launching its Climate Fund Campaign. Donations to our project could help us earn matching funds and bonus prizes!

BCI partner Heritier Mpo with Esake
BCI partner Heritier Mpo with Esake

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Mississippi of the Fekako group
Mississippi of the Fekako group

We are excited to report that a new bonobo group was recently identified in the Yetee forest of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve! Members of the group were actually first observed in 2016, but trackers initially thought that the bonobos were members of the Bekako group. When research camp manager Anaïs van Cauwenberghe began tracking and naming the Bekako group, she quickly realized that the individuals in question belonged to a different group altogether. They were jokingly referred to as “fake Bekako” which then was shortened to “Fékako.”

Researchers are still determining the exact composition of the group. Right now, they have positively identified ten individuals: Seine (adult female), Amazonia (adult female) and her female infant Amur, Mississippi (adult female) and her female infant Mia, Maas (young female), and four males named Murray, Oural, Ganges, and Nile. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these bonobos--who, like their Bekako counterparts, are being named after rivers-- and their relationships and personalities!

Since last summer, this new group has been observed interacting with the three other bonobo groups in the Yetee forest: Ekalakala, Nkokoalongo, and Bekako. Three group interactions have been thought to be quite rare, so a four group interaction is particularly exciting. These meetings are interesting in and of themselves from a scientific perspective. They also have conservation implications, as they reinforce the importance of connected habitat corridors so that bonobos can range freely and interact. Not only that, they open up another window into the cooperative, collaborative social world of the bonobos. We can’t wait to learn more!

As always, we are so grateful to Dr. Martin Surbeck and his research team from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology and for the local trackers from Vie Sauvage who trek into the forest daily to gather data and participate in research. We are also grateful to you for making our work possible!

Thank you for standing with us…and please help BCI and our partners by spreading the word about our work!

Murray of the Fekako group
Murray of the Fekako group
Koklopori bonobo. Photo Credit: Roland Hilgartner
Koklopori bonobo. Photo Credit: Roland Hilgartner

As we hear more and more about climate change and its devastating impacts, a recent report from the Rights and Resources Initiative offers hope and spotlights the importance of indigenous and local communities in protecting the world’s carbon stores and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report (A Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands) finds that 17% of the world’s carbon-rich forests are managed by indigenous and local communities, and this is five times greater than previously estimated! It also notes that this number is likely an underestimate, since documentation of forest use and legal protection is lacking in countries like Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (the only country where bonobos are found).

One of the key recommendations of the report is to: 
“Improve and continuously expand Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ access to critical knowledge to strengthen their advocacy needs and support the sustainable development and climate resilience of communities.”

At BCI, we are excited to see broader recognition of the approach we take to conservation--and the global impact it has. Our programs are aimed at protecting bonobos and their habitat, while working in partnership with Congolese communities. Together, we have already secured legal protection of 13,650 square miles of Congo rainforest (Kokolopori and Sankuru). And we have the opportunity to secure even more!

Near Kokolopori, four motivated conservationists have been protecting bonobos in their home forests. Jean Gaston Ndombasi (Likongo), Cosmas Bofangi (Lingomo),  Roger Afelende (Nkokolombo), and Albert Alukana (Foret Riche) met with the BCI team on our expedition this summer. They are eager to continue the process of gaining legal protection of their forests and developing conservation programs to benefit their communities, bonobos and other wildlife. Together, we made plans for the next steps in this process--participatory mapping and delimitation of the forests, re-equipping and training monitoring teams, and moving forward with community development programs, such as pisciculture (fish farming). In order to do this, they need continued support for their on-the-ground activities, like bonobo and wildlife monitoring.

BCI is fortunate to work with such motivated local partners and we are proud that we are able to support them, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. As we work together to protect bonobos and their habitat, we are also combating climate change--by keeping vast reserves of greenhouse gases stored in the rainforest.

As always, thank you for standing with us…and please help BCI and our partners by spreading the word about our work!

Our partners!
Our partners!

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Meet Yangtze. Bekako bonobos are named for rivers
Meet Yangtze. Bekako bonobos are named for rivers

The BCI team has just returned from an exciting visit to the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve! BCI president, Sally Jewell Coxe, and our field team were accompanied by some special guests—including activist and actress Ashley Judd, filmmaker and co-founder of Nature Needs Half James Brundige, and renowned wildlife photographer Frans Lanting. Before the expedition, BCI and Ashley partnered on a petition to raise global awareness about the importance of protecting bonobos and their rainforest habitat. She is so enthusiastic about our work that she wanted to see it first-hand! Upon her return to the States, Ashley said of her trip to the Congo: “It changed my life.”

During the expedition, the BCI team visited with our community conservation partners within Kokolopori and environs, and we initiated some promising new projects.We met with the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve Association and other local groups, as well as partners from neighboring sites, to assess progress and confer on future plans. We kicked off an environmental education program that will benefit all schools in the reserve, and beyond—and we laid the groundwork for a far-reaching awareness campaign. A soap-making project was also initiated under the leadership of a local women’s cooperative. Of course, the major focus of the expedition was visiting the bonobo groups being monitored by our dedicated tracking teams. We joined the team from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) and visited the Ekalakala and Nkokoalongo bonobo groups and learned a little bit more about their neighbors, the Bekako group.

The very first day, Ekalakala and Nkokoalongo groups met in the forest, which was super exciting! Stay tuned for more images and footage of the expedition, to be released in the coming months.

We’re happy to report that all members of the Bekako group have been identified and named, thanks to the help of the MPI researchers. While Ekalakala bonobos are named after colors and Nkokoalongo after musicians, the Bekako bonobos are named after rivers. We are in the process of habituating the Bekako group and understanding its ranging patterns, to prepare for future research and ecotourism. We have learned that from time to time, this group interacts with the two groups currently being studied by MPI. In fact, the Bekako bonobos had an encounter with the Nkokoalongo bonobos during our expedition! The team has been working diligently to gain a better understanding of the composition of the Bekako group, nearly half of which are juveniles and infants, which bodes well for the bonobo population of Kokolopori.

Generous support from donors like you has helped to sustain our monitoring teams and conservation programs at Kokolopori. Want to make an even greater difference? This Wednesday is GlobalGiving’s GG Rewards Bonus Day. Starting at 9:00AM EDT (July 18th), GlobalGiving will make available $120,000 in matching funds. Donations will be matched while funds remain, with recurring donations matched 100%!

As always, thank you for standing with us…and please help BCI and our partners by spreading the word about our work!

Loving the forest! Eco-guard Feza and Ashley Judd
Loving the forest! Eco-guard Feza and Ashley Judd
 

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Organization Information

Bonobo Conservation Initiative

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @bonobodotorg
Project Leader:
Sally Coxe
Washington, DC United States
$65,539 raised of $89,700 goal
 
1,336 donations
$24,161 to go
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