Participatory mapping is underway in Lingomo, Nkokolombo, and Likongo! Obtaining accurate maps is a critical step on the road to achieving official protection.
Inspired by the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, local leaders in these sites formed their own NGOs and have been diligently taking steps to protect their own forests using the Bonobo Peace Forest model. Cosmas in Lingomo (Conservation of the Resources of Lingomo), Roger in Nkokolombo (Association for Conservation of Bonobos in the Source of Lomako), and Jean Gaston in Likongo (Début Likongo for Conservation and Development) work together with such tireless dedication that they are called the Three Musketeers!
The three forests of Lingomo, Nkokolombo, and Likongo are actually part of one continuous forest, known as LiLiKo for short. The BCI motto for the region is “mboka misato, zamba moko,” which means “three communities, one forest.” LiLiKo spans approximately 700,000 acres and includes large tracts of intact primary forest. It harbors incredible biodiversity, including bonobos, giant ground pangolins, and Wolf’s monkeys. Protecting this forest is a boon to these species and to all of us who rely on the Congo rainforest for clean air, carbon sequestration, and more.
Mapping LiLiKo forest is important for practical reasons like understanding the terrain, zoning, and organizing monitoring teams, and it’s essential for gaining official protection status. It has often been the case that conservation maps have been drawn by outsiders without sufficient input from communities, meaning that the maps do not align with the real-world use of the land. Participatory mapping means that local people take the lead in determining the boundaries of their own forest. It is a labor-intensive process, but it is a worthwhile effort to ensure that community voices are represented and customary land rights are respected.
The mapping process begins with our team members walking the approximate boundary of the forest. Along the way, they verify the traditional borders with villagers from neighboring communities. Often, boundaries are demarcated by significant natural features like trees, large rocks, or streams. Waypoints are determined with handheld GPS units. Then, our team members assemble the information and take it to a mapping agency in Kisangani where the maps are produced and printed.
A large portion of the participatory mapping has been completed–and in the process, additional groupements (village groupings) have expressed their interest in being included as well! This means that the LiLiKo forest block may be larger than we had anticipated. We urgently need to keep the teams going so that they can move forward in securing official protection of their forests.
Please support Cosmas, Roger, Jean Gaston, and their teams as they complete the LiLiKo mapping! They need equipment such as sturdy boots, ponchos, machetes, headlamps, and batteries in order to continue this vital effort. Thank you for all you do to make our work possible!
We are thrilled to announce that The Nature Conservancy is partnering with BCI to help preserve a critical region within the bonobo habitat. With The Nature Conservancy’s generous support, we are taking major steps toward establishing official protection for the Lilungu forest and preparing for long-term, sustainable financing through REDD+, in cooperation with local communities.
Lilungu is a haven of bonobo protection. The local Balanga people have strong taboos against hunting bonobos, as well as deep knowledge about the bonobos and their habitat. BCI has worked in Lilungu since 2005, supporting monitoring teams and collaborating with Lilungu residents to address community needs.
Lilungu links a vital habitat corridor between Sankuru Nature Reserve and Lomami National Park to the south and Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve (and other protected areas) to the north. Habitat corridors are hugely important to conservation because they enable bonobos and other wildlife to range freely, promoting genetic diversity and allowing animals access to necessary resources.
What’s new in Lilungu?
BCI recently sent a team to Lilungu to collaborate with representatives from our local NGO partner APBL (Association pour la Protection de Bonobo de Lilungu) and lay the groundwork for the next phase of work. The team was led by Dr. Norbert Mbangi Mulavwa, the scientific director of CREF(Centre de Recherche en Écologie et Foresterie). Mbangi has a long association with Lilingu. He has been instrumental in the development of the site since BCI began operations there, leading multiple trainings for the local monitoring teams.
This summer, after an arduous journey on nearly impassable roads, Mbangi and his fellow team members arrived in Lilungu and engaged in information exchange with APBL and the local teams. The Lilungu teams provided up-to-date reports on the bonobos and APBL’s conservation efforts. After introducing the goals of the current project, Mbangi provided additional training for the trackers. He also assessed the capacity and the material needs of the APBL in order to help them prepare for the next phase of the project. Mbangi had the chance to observe the Iyende bonobo group himself. Thanks to the consistent work of the trackers, the bonobos are so habituated to human presence that one of the bonobos remained relaxed in a sleeping nest for the whole ninety minutes that the team was present. Habituation also brings some challenges—several farmers have reported that bonobos are helping themselves to bananas and other crops! As we move forward, we will continue to find ways for humans and bonobos to live in harmony. The community is excited about scaling up protection of their forest—and so are we!
What’s next for Lilungu?
Participatory mapping with local communities will soon be underway, a very important step in securing designation as a protected area. We’re preparing to conduct updated biological surveys to determine the presence and distribution of the vast variety of species within the Lilungu forest. We will also be reassessing threats to the forest and its wildlife so that we can determine the most effective ways to protect it.
Protecting the Lilungu forest is a longstanding goal, and you can make a difference today! While the support from TNC is a huge boost, we need matching funds in order to help the Lilungu communities safeguard bonobos and their vital habitat. Together, we can make this dream a reality!
Thank you so much for your support.
One of the major challenges of working in the bonobo habitat is delivering equipment and supplies to remote areas of the Congo rainforest. The pandemic made already complicated logistics even harder as travel, resources, and supply chains were constrained. We are delighted to report that perseverance wins the day once again! Earlier this year, our local partner organization, Vie Sauvage, completed a delivery of much-needed supplies to the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve. This delivery was made possible by funding from Carbon Streaming Corporation, SumofUs, and generous donors like you!
The expedition began in the capital city of Kinshasa, where a barge was loaded with cargo bound for the health clinic and the bonobo monitoring teams. After a 12-day journey covering more than 1400 km, the barge docked at Befori, as the river beyond that point isn’t navigable by large vessels. The supplies were redistributed to smaller boats and to land transport (bikes and motorcycles) for the rest of the journey. The dirt roads can be very difficult to traverse, due to lack of maintenance, insufficient bridges, and rain. Thanks to the problem-solving, coordination, and cooperation of our team, all supplies arrived safely in the reserve.
When the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve was founded, we asked the local communities what would bring the greatest benefit to their lives. The overwhelming consensus was that a health clinic was top priority. In this area of the rainforest, healthcare options are limited or nonexistent, and the long, arduous travel to distant facilities can put patients at great risk. We established the Bonobo Health Clinic in 2007 and have been working hard to meet the needs of the Kokolopori community. The difficulties of the past couple of years have caused significant hardship for the clinic. We are so glad to report that, in this shipment, the health clinic received medications, laboratory equipment, and essential medical supplies. These items can truly mean the difference between life and death, and their arrival is making an immediate impact in the community.
The shipment also included necessary equipment for our bonobo monitoring teams. They are the heroes in the field, trekking large distances and braving all sorts of weather in order to observe and protect the bonobos. These backpacks, ponchos, boots, and headlamps will help them stay safe and dry so that they are able to do their lifesaving work.
We’re so grateful to you, our supporters, for keeping the health clinic and monitoring teams going strong. Your generosity helps save lives.
As we approach the 53rd Earth Day this week, we are reminded of the role that our work continues to play in protecting bonobos and their habitat:
"For Earth Day 2022, we need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet." [earthday.org]
Earlier this year, a team of representatives of BCI and our partner Vie Sauvage spent 15 days visiting and consulting with residents of Kokolopori and Likongo. We are laying the groundwork for securing the longevity and long-term prosperity of the Bonobo Peace Forest via REDD+ funding. An important step in this process is ensuring the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities involved—enabling those impacted to control the way conservation and development projects are designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.
The aim of these meetings was to raise awareness on REDD+ and its implications for communities of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve and the Likongo community-based reserve project. The outreach team explained to the communities why they needed to learn about REDD+, how they could build on their own experience of interacting with nature and forest resources, how they could responsibly shape the future of their communities and how the issue of forest degradation and related greenhouse gas emissions is a topical issue of the utmost importance for the future of humanity. These concepts were delivered in French, and the local languages of Lingala and Longando.
The workshops drew more than 570 participants from 47 villages, and represented youth, women’s associations, members of administrative councils, and regional and village notables. The outreach team addressed concerns from the community about REDD+ projects and documented the priorities for conservation, livelihood, and sustainable development activities at Kokolopori and Likongo. Most significantly, these meetings confirmed that the communities with which BCI has been working for over two decades remain firmly committed to protecting their irreplaceable forests and the wildlife within.
We would not have been able to reach this point without our generous supporters. As always, thank you for standing with us…and please help BCI and our partners by spreading the word about our mission!
We are thrilled to report that, after two years away due to COVID-19 restrictions, BCI President Sally Jewell Coxe made a return trip to Kinshasa! As grateful as we are for all the technologies that keep our global team connected, there's nothing quite like being together in person.
All of our Bonobo Peace Forest programs require the commitment and collaboration of many different people and organizations. While in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sally met with many of BCI's friends and partners, including representatives of Vie Sauvage and Amis de Faune et Flore de Lomela (AFFL)--one of our Sankuru partners--and the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature). Sally and BCI's Dieudonné Mushagalusa had the opportunity to meet with Eve Bazaiba Masudi, DRC's new Vice Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment (pictured above) to discuss the Bonobo Peace Forest and new carbon funding mechanisms. Sally also worked on strategic planning with the BCI Kinshasa staff and field partners, all of whom have been working diligently to keep our conservation efforts going throughout the pandemic.
Big goals like species conservation and rainforest protection are only achieved step by step, conversation by conversation. BCI is founded on the belief that Congolese voices and perspectives must have priority in determining how we protect the Congo Basin and all who live there. The relationships we've built over the last 20+ years have been the key to all we've accomplished, and we're honored to have so many incredible collaborators by our side as we forge the path ahead.
As always, thank you for standing with us!
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